UNICEF Innovation Fund Graduate: Prescrypto

A blockchain health technology application designed to manage sensitive clinical data in a secure and private way.

Everardo J. Barojas, Founder and Director, Prescrypto
Mothers and their children wait in line to receive the Sabin polio vaccine at a clinic in San Francisco Xochiteopan, Puebla state, Mexico, T
© UNICEF/UN0141593/Zehbrauskas
30 March 2020

The UNICEF Innovation Fund is proud to see portfolio member, Prescrypto, graduate. They’ve come a long way – from numerous product iterations to deep diving into understanding their ecosystem better, strengthening their business model, and gearing up to take their solution to market. They’re now ready to collaborate at a larger scale – as they find new pathways to work with partners, investors, and the open source community. 


For the past years, blockchain technology has had a resounding impact on technology, however interacting with blockchain for the everyday user poses a significant challenge. 

At Prescrypto, we’ve worked on how to improve access to blockchain technologies within the healthcare system. Prescrypto has developed RexChain, a healthcare blockchain designed to guarantee portability of sensitive clinical data in a secure and private way.

The Challenge

Structured clinical data that is accessible and easy to deduce is one the core problems that blockchain technology attempts to solve. The core technology which is decentralized and public in nature provides almost textbook antidotes to the challenges faced in attaining reliable records in healthcare, promising to ensure that clinical data is available to stakeholders at the right time, impossible to forge and traceable. Nonetheless, having doctors interact with a blockchain client, i.e.: a wallet provides very little value to them.

Doctors need rich interfaces to facilitate their practice and enforce business logic to avoid the garbage-in-garbage-out conundrum. At an empirical level, this means transactionally validating that data in RexChain fulfills a minimum set of values, or standard, much like HL7 (insert link).

Prescrypto as an Integrated Wallet

Our answer to this problem was to build augmented wallet software that is not only capable of storing and managing pairs of keys and directly broadcast transactions to the blockchain, but can act as a tool that provides doctors with all the information they need to correctly structure a prescription. Prescriptions are then broadcast to RexChain as a transaction, where a Proof-of-Work algorithm mines blocks made up of transactions, that can represent newly minted prescriptions or transferred data.

Inspiration

Our inspiration came from early wallet software, such as Circle or Coinbase’s original product. We think blockchain health technology is at a similar stage to where Bitcoin was in 2011-2013, and we’ll see the rise of data exchanges within the next couple of years. Do note that data exchanges will most likely look nothing like financial exchanges.

Prescrypto team in their office in action
Prescrypto
Prescrypto team in action

Results

The results of this approach have been quite successful as RexChain has processed more than 140,000 transactions, 95% of them containing encrypted structured clinical data. 

Doctors are interacting with a very simple user interface (UI) (much similar in scope to a web-based email client like Gmail) that stores patients sensitive data on a much safer and easier to interact-with blockchain. This seamless UI allows the necessary stakeholders to validate that the prescription exists, has not been tampered with and was issued by a valid doctor. On our platform, doctors are free to export their private keys and import them to a third party wallet, or even use our RexChain Wallet.

FOSS

One of our most important accomplishments is that our underlying infrastructure has been developed as FOSS tech right from its inception. This has allowed would-be users to audit our code and guarantees de-facto interoperability simply by adhering to the standards of our REST API.

An aspect we were so thankful to UNICEF was to have highlighted the good decision to choose FOSS beyond the cost advantages, reliability and standards; since we could notice advantages towards the community, working with people outside of our circle of expertise and generating unexpected good ideas. It was a big bet because we were exposed to developers with incredible skills who shared insights (both good and bad) on that way we could improve.

Prescrypto Team photo
Prescrypto
Meet the Prescrypto team

What’s next?

Some RexChain validator nodes are already deployed with some research agencies in Mexico, these users are accessing structured clinical data in real time and have a finger on the pulse of the prescribing habits in Mexico. Access to this data is of high value to several stakeholders, as it is rarely structured and most likely to be found on a paper-based prescription. Our next step is to figure out how the exchange of this data must take place for closer-to-mass adoption.

Working with the UNICEF Innovation Fund 

The help from the UNICEF Innovation Fund has been instrumental in the development of a secure and easy to use product. Their monthly check-ins have held our objectives and best practices in place and their mentor network has allowed us to gain technical assistance from a variety of experts. 

Having the opportunity to collaborate with such an amazing group of people has been a huge motivational force too. I highly advise companies at any level to engage with the UNICEF Innovation Fund, you might find that you have much to learn from them.

In conclusion, these are some easy to digest takeaways on UX for the Blockchain...

  1. This might be obvious in many fields, but it’s not always apparent: UX is one of the most undervalued qualities for blockchain systems.
  2. There is very little documentation and even less experimentation on health specific blockchain applications.
  3. There is a natural fit between FOSS applications and health technology, especially when dealing with sensitive data and interoperability.
  4. The single most difficult challenge for RexChain is how to properly represent property and access to encrypted data while maintaining killer UX.
  5. Business models in health are hard, really hard. 
  6. UNICEF’s expertise in deploying tech to vulnerable populations is of high value for a startup. I’m not going to say that interacting with an entity the size of UNICEF was easy, it wasn’t and it had several friction points, however the mechanism that the Innovation Fund has created to interact with us startups, works incredibly well.

 

About the UNICEF Innovation Fund:

UNICEF’s Innovation Fund invests up to $100k in early stage, open-source, emerging technology digital public goods with the potential to impact children on a global scale. It also provides product and technology assistance, support with business growth, access to a network of experts and partners to allow for scale and growth. The investments can go either to UNICEF Country Offices or to private sector companies in UNICEF programme countries.