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Healthureum Aims to Cut Healthcare Costs with Smart Contracts

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The Estonian economy is a little-publicized success story in Europe, with startups of many kinds. Healthureum, based in Estonia, is seeking to make its mark in blockchain technology for healthcare. It launched in 2016, set up detailed plans in 2017, and aims to introduce its application to five hospitals this year.

How Healthureum will Cut Healthcare Costs with Ethereum Smart Contracts

Healthureum’s aims include these:

  • To use the Ethereum blockchain and smart contracts to increase the interoperability and efficiency of healthcare services.
  • To incorporate a token-based payment system, which will also be used to reward referrals and second opinions.
  • To give patients ownership of and access to their medical data.
  • To secure patient data cryptographically.
  • To bring “S3” (standardization, scalability, and social responsibility) to healthcare services.

Simplifying payment

The most distinctive feature of Healthureum’s plan is the integration of payment tokens and healthcare information in the same system. WELL also uses tokens for payment between healthcare providers, but the token system is its primary focus.

Healthureum aims at a strong set of healthcare information features as well as a payment system in a single blockchain. It aims at providing a “complete supporting ecosystem” for providers, not just a method of small-scale payments. A major aim of the token system is to facilitate cross-border services by making payment direct, avoiding international processing fees and currency conversions.

The token is called the Healthureum, abbreviated HHEM. The HHEM will be the exclusive means of payment within the network. A Token Generation Event (TGE) ran in December 2017 to seed the system. It excluded a number of countries, among them the United States, Japan, and China.

Making health data available and secure

Participating patients will have their personal, medical, and emergency data all stored in encrypted form on a single platform. Large data files, such as high-resolution images, would make the blockchain unmanageably large, so they will be stored elsewhere, with access through encrypted links.

The system uses permission layers to control access, so that participants can read only the information that they’re authorized for. It promises instant access, so that the information is available in emergencies. Specialists will be allowed to see a subset of the patient’s data in order to provide a second opinion.

Naturally, patients want to know that the people treating them and getting referrals are qualified. This can be an issue if they have a medical emergency in an unfamiliar place. Healthureum states that it will confirm that all providers in its network are legally qualified. The patient will be able to see a referred doctor’s credentials through the blockchain.

Medical research

Some features of Healthureum aim at facilitating medical research. Patients who aren’t actively participating in medical trials can contribute their anonymized medical data. When they do this, they’re granting permission only for research purposes. Fraud in medical trials is a concern, since there can be financial incentives to make a treatment appear more successful than it was. Since the blockchain is safe against tampering, it guards against falsification of data.

Future plans

Where is Healthureum going from here? In 2018, it plans to work with two pilot hospitals to implement and test its standardized data framework. It will test the alpha and beta versions of its data systematization application and gather data and credentials for doctors in the test program.

After making any necessary fixes to the code and confirming regulatory compliance, the program will expand to five hospitals, adding the initial implementation of referrals and consultation. In 2019 it plans to add philanthropic activities and research programs.

The biggest challenge which any healthcare blockchain faces is reaching a critical mass of adoption. To be useful to patients, it has to give them access to a large number of facilities and doctors. Healthureum is staking its hopes on the combination of flexible, secure information and a payment system in the same blockchain. If enough facilities adopt it, it could be a success.