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Leveraging on Blockchain Technology for Personal COVID-19 Medical Records

SGInnovate and Accredify co-develop the Digital Health Passport to store verified medical documents for individuals as a digital wallet.

Announced in late September 2020, SGInnovate entered into a partnership with the start-up, Accredigy to develop a blockchain-based solution – the Digital Health Passport – to enable more efficient management of personal COVID-19 medical records. The platform allows for medical documents of individuals to be stored in a secure digital wallet, protected from tampering with blockchain technology, while facilitating quick access and easy verification of the documents.

Digital Health Passport would help streamline the workflow of healthcare practitioners, medical facilities and the relevant government agencies, enabling them to digitalise the issuance of medical documents such as COVID-19 discharge memos and swab results. Removing the need for paper-based documents that are difficult to manage and can be more error-prone. Built on the OpenAttestation framework by GovTech, Digital Health Passport leverages blockchain technology to generate tamper-proof cryptographic protections for each medical document. Users can automatically verify the digital records via a mobile app and present it to officials via QR code, for a quick and seamless verification process.

Storing data on the blockchain ensures greater transparency, security and privacy – no personal health data will be revealed on the Digital Health Passport. The log-in process is integrated with SingPass, and users can also select the necessary records to be shared and set expiry timings, for added security.

The Digital Health Passport project was initiated in May 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. SGInnovate, which creates venture-fundable Deep Tech businesses, approached Accredify to co-develop a solution to complement the work by Singapore’s healthcare sector in the fight against COVID-19.

“As the pandemic tested Singapore’s healthcare sector, we identified a gap in the large-scale management of medical records. We wanted to quickly build a solution that enables a trusted authentication process, to create more efficiencies for healthcare practitioners and officials working at the frontline and support the safe reopening of the economy. To do this, we partnered with Accredify, who has a proven track record of creating blockchain-based digital certificates for the education industry. Coupled with our experience in planning, developing and commercialising Deep Tech solutions for the healthcare sector, we developed and piloted the Digital Health Passport in two months, to support the nationwide effort in mitigating the impact of the pandemic,” said Simon Gordon, Deputy Director of Venture Building, SGInnovate. The project was supported by the National Research Foundation under its Central Gap Fund Thematic Call – COVID-19 Challenge.

“In recent months, we have seen how Singapore’s Deep Tech community has made concerted efforts in stepping up to develop and deploy various COVID-19 solutions. Opportunities can be found within crises, and we are excited to be able to contribute to Singapore’s response to fight and contain the outbreak through our blockchain technology and help position Singapore as a Digital Hub in a post-COVID world,” said Zheng Wei Quah, CEO of Accredify.

“The Digital Health Passport is an example of the outcomes-driven Deep Tech projects that we work on at SGInnovate. It also highlights the relevance of Deep Tech in providing critical solutions for the most pressing global issues. As we transition into the eventual recovery phase post-COVID, the Deep Tech community will need to band together with government, corporates and other start-up partners to bring their research out of labs, and develop innovations that can help to strike a balance between public health, safety and economic activities worldwide,” said Pang Heng Soon, Chief Operating Officer & Executive Director of Venture Building, SGInnovate.

An early version of the Digital Health Passport has been implemented in a pilot with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). It was launched as a new feature in the MOM’s FWMOMCARE app in July 2020, to manage and display electronic COVID-19 discharge memos for foreign workers. To date, foreign worker discharge memos have been verified over 1,500,000 times via the feature, allowing them to return to work.

Plans are underway to extend the usage of Digital Health Passport to other healthcare records, to gear up for the eventual resumption of travel. The development team would also be continuing to explore more applications of this blockchain technology. [APBN]