Spherity contributes to #WirVsVirus Hackathon for Corona-Virus Solutions
Spherity‘s E-Rezept prototype digitizes drug prescriptions for socially-distanced patients
Spherity successfully completed a working prototype of an e-Rezept (electronic prescription) system for the #WirVsVirus online competition for solutions to various urgent problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Federal Government had invited people to take part in this virtual hackathon, and the enthusiastic response and the range of creative solutions from 1.500 teams were overwhelming. Of the more than 40,000 initial participants, 27,000 got actively involved last weekend and developed solutions to challenges related to the Corona crisis.
This was the “biggest hackathon in Germany’s history”, as Chancellery Minister Helge Braun emphasized.
#WirVsVirus: Social Distancing Challenge
One of the categories addressed by the most teams in the hackathon was technical solutions to support “social distancing”, a containment strategy that entails strictly minimizing interpersonal physical interactions across all spheres of society. In times of social distancing, ongoing policy and technical discussions about how to digitize social processes rapidly change from opportunity to urgent replacement. So-called “e-government”, “e-health” and “e-community” stop being supplements to business as usual and become serious candidates for maintaining viable minimum levels of support for government, health, and community.
All of these e-Solutions require levels of trust, privacy, and security that have historical proven elusive for online interactions. The major technical and legal stumbling block to digital-first social, business, and government processes has always been the assurance of identity for all parties involved. Assurance of identity and data integrity often come at the expense of privacy protections, which are paramount in eGovernment and eHealth. The most promising way through these historical dilemmas is Self-sovereign identity (SSI), an encryption regime that balances the prerogatives of privacy, security, and assurance and will be foundational to a broad range of new digital processes and services. (If you’re hearing about SSI for the first time here, see the layman’s introduction Spherity wrote last year.)
The e-Rezept system: Trustworthy digitization
‘Our project was inspired by my mother who don’t want to go to an overcrowded doctor’s office just to renew a pharmaceutical prescription’, said Carsten Stöcker, CEO of Spherity.
Contemplating this scenario, the Spherity team realized that digitizing this relatively low-risk process could substantially reduce traffic and contagion vectors considerably: after all, patients are only required to come in to the office to renew their prescriptions for lack of faith in remote authentication (i.e., identity verification), and for lack of reliable telemedicine options. As authentication and identity experts, this quotidian inconvenience seemed a reasonable, solvable problem for the Spherity team, that could combine with other efforts to push forward remote e-Medicine in times of urgent social distancing.
The prototype was built using the stablest, most mature technologies at the disposal of the SSI internet stack: W3C-compliant decentralized identifiers for forward compatibility, complex key management for multi-layer security and recoverability, electronic signatures for auditability and data forensics. Our solution lives in the AWS cloud, accessed by patients through a secure iOS mobile interface. Identifiers of the doctors are anchored on the Ethereum blockchain. The lightweight E-Rezept app was designed to be easily integrated with existing Health Care infrastructures for doctors, pharmacies and online distributors.
Next Steps: Digitizing more than Prescriptions
The E-Rezept also enables the development of further digital health applications. Once health systems support an identity solution for patients, all manner of confidential communications and routine information services could readily be done over that secure channel. Since the lightweight prototype we made deals with prescriptions, it would add very little complexity to query and deliver medication information from the international pharmaceutical master data systems carefully maintained by consortia of pharmaceutical companies, or to make apps for scheduling, reminders, and interaction-checks. Patients could consent to full or partial sharing of information about their prescriptions with their care providers, or even add tracking information about when and how they take their medications.
Prescriptions are only one small part of the broader, worldwide movement to digitize modern healthcare and make it more amenable to telemedicine and minimized physical interactions. Integrating Spherity’s prescription solution with health insurance infrastructures would pay for itself in efficiency gains and significantly reduce process costs in the administration of health care systems. Integrating it with more comprehensive electronic health record systems (particularly human-centric or self-sovereign ones) could help make for a healthier doctor-patient relationship and stem the tide of misaligned incentives in for-profit healthcare worldwide.
Here in Germany, the Ministry of Health has recently passed revolutionary laws advancing electronic health record systems, digital prescription support, and telemedicine. The aggressive digital prescription law passed by Health Minister Jens Spahn is already in place, with technical specifications scheduled to be delivered to implementers in June of this year. We hope that our prototype can help the government to promote adoption of the E-Rezept, among industry and among the general public. We also hope that our prototype garners interest in combining the Health Ministry’s telemedicine efforts with the Economics Ministry’s digital identity efforts, the European Commission’s efforts to promote SSI across Europe, and the effort of our private-sector partners in the Blockchain Bundesverband to make self-sovereign identity the foundation for the next generation of digital business in Germany and beyond.
Now the Blockchain Bundesverband and Spherity are looking for further partners in Government and in the Health Care sector to bring the E-Rezept solution to a productive field test as soon as possible. You can find more information about our E-Rezept hackathon solution here.
About Blockchain Bundesverband
The German Blockchain Association believes that blockchain and similar decentralized technologies based on cryptography are fundamental to digital infrastructure innovation. The association’s initiatives focus on education both for decision makers in politics and industry-leading corporations, as well as the broader public. It maintains blockchain adoption is necessary to keep Germany competitive in an increasingly digital world and that the technology can only flourish if it’s recognized by politics, society and institutions and utilized by the latter two.
Spherity was founded by Dr. Carsten Stöcker und Dr. Michael Rüther in November 2017. Spherity is building decentralized identity management solutions to power the 4th industrial revolution, bringing secure identities (“Digital Twins”) to machines, algorithms, and other non-human entities. The client focus is primarily on technical industries like mobility, supply chain, and pharmaceuticals; in particular, Spherity is supporting the introduction of identity solutions in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market, which is expected to have a value of over €400 billion by 2030 and 75 billion connected devices by 2025.