HPEC: The Radical Notion That Doctors And Patients Should Be At The Center Of Healthcare

By Christopher Hughey

​Today’s blog article is by Fast Layne Solutions CEO Christopher Hughey.

5-minute read.

In late July, I talked to Dr. Leah Houston, physician and founder of HPEC, a New York-based start-up dedicated to revolutionizing how physicians interact with patients and each other by leveraging blockchain (aka distributed ledger technology), to eliminate friction for health systems and insurance companies in the credentialing process, and later in patient records management. 

In 2017, Dr. Houston got a very alarming notice: the federal government was investigating her for practicing medicine without a license. It turned out her former employer had continued to bill under her name in a state where she was no longer licensed. While the investigation was carried out, Dr. Houston was unable to practice. Eventually the problem was resolved and Dr. Houston was able to return to her work, but the incident forever changed her perspective on just how exploited both doctors and patients are in the modern healthcare system, with both being seen as little more than pawns to the hospital systems and insurance companies. This is not the world to which she had dedicated her life when, at age 18, she decided to become a physician. She had signed up to help people, not to become a cog in a large machine controlled by bad-faith actors seeking only to exploit the system for gain.

So like all visionary leaders, she decided to do something about it. The first step was acknowledging the underlying problem: third-party control of the information and of the system. Realization eventually led to the founding of her start-up, HPEC, which aims to modernize the traditional system of physician credentialing by making it more efficient and secure with blockchain technology. HPEC wants to allow doctors to own their own credentials in a distributed ledger system. When doctors join a new practice, they will present their digital credentials to the new practice. The digital credentials will then be cross-checked with the permanent blockchain record of the originally-issued credential in a peer-to-peer fashion. So instead of the healthcare system spending billions on credentialing and wasting countless personnel hours on the process of repetitive primary source verification, with this permanent and immutable record, the cost and time to credential would plummet, and the transactions would be both secure and direct. Once credentials are verified, they can then be transmitted to the required parties in any format needed.

And that’s just the beginning. Think further down the road:

Imagine a world in which patient records are no longer held hostage to third parties like EHR publishers and corporate healthcare systems, a system in which you, the patient, fully own your own patient record and history and share it with individual doctors and hospitals only when youchoose to do so, and based on a scope and expiration you determine.

Or a world in which medical device companies don’t buy your history from a third party without your consent or even knowledge, but instead must come straight to you if they want to incorporate your experiences, demographics, and usage into their studies, research, and development.

Or even consider a scenario I suggested during our chat: picture a future world in which the lessons learned from medical errors benefit all healthcare workers and patients, because instead of running away from those errors (as the litigious, malpractice-obsessed, post-Flexner Report world has forced doctors to do for the past century), healthcare workers can share them securely in pseudo- or completely anonymized ways leveraging blockchain. Doctors could revive the tradition of monthly Morbidity and Mortality Reviews, but in a secure setting using distributed ledger technology.

As I look back on the big news stories in the business of healthcare in 2020, it is not tales of innovation like Dr. Houston’s that stand out, but rather those of more and more corporate consolidation, more corporate intermediaries coming between doctors and their patients, more depersonalization of healthcare delivery. And it shows: patients like and trust doctors less and less, all because of the actions of corporate bad-faith actors pulling the strings in the background, operating in a system in which the rules are rigged to favor the payers and restrain the doctors.

I am therefore very pleased to have met Dr. Houston and some other visionary leaders I will be interviewing in the months to come for this ongoing series about how we can use technology to liberate both patients and doctors from the increasing tyranny of third parties who are doing little to improve the quality of our care, and everything to exploit its delivery for their own benefit.

To find out more about HPEC, visit their Our Why page and their How It Works page. If you are a doctor interested in joining their campaign to retake physician ownership of healthcare, click here to be added to the waiting list. If you want to invest in HPEC, please click here to participate in the initial funding round, which ends on 5 November 2020.

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Ethical disclosure in line with our Corporate Social Responsibility policy: although the impetus for inviting Dr. Houston to this chat was simply to learn more about how companies are leveraging blockchain to improve healthcare delivery and to write this resulting blog article, I was so impressed with the company and Dr. Houston’s vision that I invested a small amount with the start-up following our conversation. However, I did so only after our conversation and after Dr. Houston agreed to let me interview her, and I made the investment through a third party without her foreknowledge.