Exclusive: How blockchain could shape post-Covid work and healthcare

By Yun Xuan Poon

Interview with Zheng Wei Quah, CEO and Co-founder, Accredify.

Humans have shown remarkable adaptability in the pandemic - from designing neighbourhoods around mental health to delivering school materials on a donkey. As we learn to live with Covid-19, how can tech help us reopen borders, restart economies and rethink work?

One Singaporean startup believes part of the answer lies in blockchain. Accredify developed the Digital Health Passport last year to allow travellers to prove they were virus-free. The firm has now expanded its blockchain platform to validate vaccination records and at-home Covid test results.

This will be crucial as firms reopen offices for employees to return. Zheng Wei Quah, CEO and co-founder of Accredify, shares the potential that blockchain has for keeping workplaces safe, and giving patients control over their health data.

Recognise self-test Covid results

Quah and his team have created a new app that records and verifies results for at-home self test kits. The biggest problem with self tests today is that there’s no way to validate the results, he says.

The Accredify START app allows others to instantly authenticate a self test result. The process is quite simple: drag and drop the health records onto a verifier, or scan a QR code of the test result.

The app doesn’t just take care of verification; it covers the entire self test process too. It guides users right from how to conduct the test, to recording results, to sharing it.

It even features a timer for the test’s incubation period, so users don’t check their results too early and end up with an inconclusive test. The app will then teach users how to read the result before directing them to save it as a photo.

This will be key as employees bring staff back to offices on a larger scale. The government has recommended that firms make self tests a part of their back to office plans, CNA reported.

The app combines with national digital ID system SingPass to provide a secure login method. Bosses can get a “bird’s eye view” of all of their employees’ health statuses, he says.

This will also be relevant as the events industry opens up. “Rapid antigen tests to us are not just going to be for travel and foreign international use cases, but more excitingly to me is how we can help to reopen the domestic economy,” Quah shares.

His team is working with HR teams so they can integrate the app into their existing HR systems. For instance, global tech firm SAP is using Accredify’s platform to record and track employee health statuses.

Empowering patients

Beyond Covid-19, blockchain could make sharing health data easier in the long run. Accredify is looking to “put data into the hands of the individual”, Quah says, so they can have a lot more control over their own health data.

It’s traditionally been difficult for hospitals to share patient data with one another. Health data is awfully sensitive, and it’s often too risky to move it outside of a hospital’s networks. This means that doctors have to treat patients without any knowledge of their past diagnoses, so it can take longer to spot trends.

One solution is to put all of a patient’s health data with the patient, instead of scattered across multiple healthcare providers. Individuals can then choose which types of information they would like to share with their doctor. “You have the master copy, and the healthcare provider updates your copy,” he explains.

Validating work skills

Accredify first started out verifying university graduation certificates. Now, it’s going back to its roots. “One of the things that we are looking at is how we can have some cross between education and healthcare,” Quah says.

For instance, foreign workers could use blockchain to validate their negative Covid-19 results, along with their certifications for operating certain machines. This would be helpful onboard business ships as well. Nautical crews are often made up of people from all around the world, so authenticating their health statues and certificates can be complex.

The startup is also trialling a new way of issuing and verifying corporate documents with a statutory board in the Singapore government, he shares. This could make issuing documents to the public more secure.

Beyond borders

Quah’s team is working to bring their tool abroad. It has already partnered more than 900 clinics and hospitals across Singapore, Taiwan, Australia and Indonesia, he says.

This is a step towards reopening borders safely. Accredify acts as the middle man - whatever information hospitals release, its tool makes it verifiable no matter which hospital or country the traveller goes to.

“Before we existed, [healthcare providers] always struggled with keeping up with the most up to date standards,” he explains. Patients had to tell hospitals the specific phrases that needed to appear on their travel memo. Standardising health records and memos has made the process much easier for hospitals, and less worrisome for users.

As of the end of July, Accredify has issued more than 600,000 Covid-19 certificates which have been verified nearly 7 million times. These include foreign workers in Singapore heading back to workplaces and those on business trips.

As the world inches its way back to stability, blockchain could help it do so safely.

Images by Accredify