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How decentralised identity & verifiable credentials will transform the world of healthcare



The world of healthcare is clogged with paper-based licenses and certifications, together with manual verification processes and gatekeepers, which causes major delays in the healthcare industry.

Traditional and current ways of verifying healthcare workers can take weeks, if not months, which causes huge delays in filling urgently needed healthcare roles. The healthcare industry and outdated ways of accrediting healthcare professionals have been long overdue for change.

When a doctor becomes newly certified to practice healthcare, their new place of work, a surgery, hospital, or healthcare practice, must take a copy of their paper-based certificate and contact the accreditation giver to verify the certificate. This process can be seen as tedious to carry out each year or when a new doctor joins a healthcare provider.

With verifiable credentials and decentralized identity, credentials and certifications can be given digitally, and be digitally signed by the new employer. Let’s paint a picture of how easy this process could be:

  • A doctor becomes qualified to practice 
  • The accreditation giver provides a digital certificate
  • This certification is held on the doctor’s digital wallet
  • The time stamps and a cryptographic hash of the certification details are stored in the network, secured by a digital code
  • When a doctor applies to a job, the certification can be digitally sent to the new employer
  • The new employer can verify the certification is legitimate and is from an authorized medical governing body
  • The newly qualified doctor can begin work in the healthcare facility

This process can be completed quickly and the credentials verified instantly so doctors can work in their healthcare profession as soon as they become qualified.

Read the ‘IBM Blockchain Trusted Identity’ use case for an in-depth example of the current process patients and healthcare providers must carry out, versus verifiable credentials and decentralized identity.

​​A quicker and easier process must be brought in to accommodate today’s world. The global pandemic has had devastating effects on the economy and has shut down many businesses.


Healthcare passports and certifications

Since December 2019, the start of COVID-19, the global death toll stands at 4.36 million. With public health authorities and governments struggling to get ahead of the virus, the focus lies on finding a solution to help reopen the economy safely and enabling speed of information for effective decisions – the solution being verifiable credentials.

Verifiable credentials allow you to validate information about people and organizations instantly. An ‘issuer’, in this case being the medical accrediting agency, creates every verifiable credential. The details and certifications of the newly qualified doctor, being the ‘holder’, those accreditations are stored in the wallet of the holder. When a doctor applies for a job, the employer requests access to view the digital credentials and can instantly  ‘verify’ the doctor.

The ease and simplicity of verifiable credentials mean a newly qualified doctor can instantly begin work in their healthcare profession, and healthcare professionals can work in any geographical location they are permitted to work within, having their accreditations stored digitally in the network and wallet. These credentials can be quickly verified by a new employer, meaning a doctor can immediately begin work in a new healthcare facility.

To protect the integrity and reliability of verifiable credentials, an issuer digitally signs the credential so the verifier (the organization responsible for ensuring compliance) is assured a legitimate issuer has issued the credential and that it has not been tampered with.

Each credential created is assigned to a decentralized identity, which is set up and controlled by each healthcare practitioner, meaning the healthcare worker is in control of their own credentials, which has traditionally been held by the medical accrediting agency. With the help of verifiable credentials and decentralized identity, there is no longer one gatekeeper to certifications and it can be quickly accessed and verified by the new employer. Decentralized identity gives back control of identity and accreditation to the individual.

Verifiable credentials ensure accreditations are kept up-to-date and are kept secure for the next verifier to authenticate. When a medical accrediting agency provides a digitally signed certificate, the healthcare practitioner and owner of that certificate holds the credential in a digital wallet. The details of the credential such as the time stamp in which the certificate was given and how long it is valid for, can be optionally held within a blockchain network, digitally linked to the certificate, this process is called ‘anchoring’. Verifiers can be assured credentials have not been tampered with and are legitimate.

Verifiable credentials and decentralized identity make the flow of information quicker and easier to be issued and verified by necessary parties. Healthcare professionals can work in any given location they are permitted to, with any healthcare facility, instantly, and patients can be in control of their own medical records allowing them to be treated by any healthcare provider they choose.

To find out more on verifiable credentials and decentralized identity, contact the Dock team today at [email protected].

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