Australian healthcare startup E-Nome aims to give patients the power to safely and securely control their EHRs while helping fuel anonymized medical research. The company maintains that the highly secure and decentralized nature of the blockchain serves as an ideal platform for the personalized healthcare solution they envision. At the center of their strategy is a smartphone app designed to empower patients to access or share their EHRs on their own terms.
A longstanding problem
E-Nome emphasizes patients’ growing need to draw together their medical data and history from various sources in order to make informed decisions about their own healthcare. The company argues that in 2017, despite recent advances, our EHRs are still not in our own possession, but are broken up into many pieces scattered across any number of hospitals and doctors’ offices. This situation prevents the patient not only from viewing their own EHR, but from sharing it with healthcare providers. According to E-Nome, sharing medical data with the research community is even more difficult, given privacy and security concerns that the current system often fails to adequately address.
The Sydney-based startup argues that we now live in a new, more holistic era of healthcare where a complete EHR can help doctors treat “the patient, not the condition.” With this vision in mind, E-Nome’s mobile app promises to provide “your entire medical history right in your pocket.” Yet privacy and security concerns abound in such situations. Therefore, E-Nome has chosen to run its mobile app with blockchain technology, which provides the privacy and security to “make you the owner and carrier of your records.” According to E-Nome, hackers can’t hack into the central database to retrieve patients’ data because blockchain-based systems, by their very nature, have no central database to hack into. Rather, the blockchain distributes patients’ healthcare data throughout the system. Only individual patients have the key to unlock their information, or share it safely, securely and anonymously with the medical research community.
How E-Nome works
According to the company’s 2017 white paper, the E-Nome system involves the following series of steps:
Downloading the app
The patient adds the E-Nome mobile app to their smartphone.
Uploading the EHR
The patient asks their doctor to upload their medical history/record to the E-Nome site according to an “approved industry standard interface” that will not disrupt the doctor’s workflow.
Generating encryption keys
The patient’s smart phone produces both a public encryption key to encrypt the patient’s EHR and a private encryption key that remains in a secure keystore on the patient’s smartphone.
Scanning the phone
The public encryption key corresponds to a QR code (two-dimensional barcode) that health professionals and hospitals can scan from the patients phone. At the moment of scanning, the patient’s EHR is anonymized, encrypted and transmitted to the patient’s phone.
Controlling the EHR
Once the patient views and verifies their EHR data on their phone, they can choose whether or not to allow their anonymized health data, stored in the E-Nome database, to be shared with researchers. Their personally identifiable medical data, however, is not stored in the E-Nome database, but is distributed throughout the E-Nome blockchain, where only the patient (or a specific party with permissions granted by the patient) can unlock it with the private decryption key on the patient’s smartphone.
Interacting with researchers
Medical research organizations with subscription-based access to the E-Nome database of anonymized patient medical data can perform searches on the medical data. When their searches finds a match, medical research organizations can send an anonymous request to the corresponding patient’s phone. The message may include a request for the patient to participate in a clinical trial. The patient can view and respond to messages, and release medical data, while retaining their anonymity.
On October 10th, the Sydney-based startup announced a strategic alliance with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. The stated purpose of the alliance is to help the two companies explore blockchain-based solutions for the secure storage of genomic data for medical research purposes. Nick Curtis AM, chairman and co-founder E-Nome, is the former director of the Garvan Institute.
E-Nome also recently invested in partner Tyde, the only company that has been granted the right to host the Australian’s government’s My Health Record platform, which holds EHRs for more than 20% of the Australian population.
The Nome token
E-Nome plans to introduce “the Nome,” the E-Nome token that will serve to reward research institutes for mining and thus maintaining E-Nome’s private blockchain. Research institutions can then use their Nome tokens toward their purchases of data from the E-Nome portal.
The company plans to take the company public in September, 2018.