May 18, 2020
Covid-19: How Can We Reopen Without Compromising Privacy?
We can create a queryable federated Coronavirus health data store that’s locally controlled and managed by providers ensuring privacy of individuals. By solving the problem of data ownership, governance, and privacy, we can truly enable the interoperability we so desperately seek.
This is possible today using the latest advances in encryption, data architectures, and query processing.
Everyone Needs Health and Tracking Data to Make Decisions
So many stakeholders have an interest in access to knowledge from a Covid-19 health data store:
- Individuals need to feel safe as they go back to work, shopping, or leisure.
- Employers like airlines and hospitals need to know which of their employees are probably infected or at high risk of complications if they contract Covid-19.
- States and cities need to know which regions can be safely reopened. They need to be able to track and trace, and they need visibility.
- Healthcare providers need access to your medical history, and history of exposure, and travel history when you call in or show up at their premises.
However, we can’t just simply pool the data of every individual in the United States and make it freely accessible to every one of these entities. We are a constitutional democracy and a nation of laws with civil rights.
A recent paper out this very month from Duke Center for Health Policy lays out the key challenges to achieving our goals in the context of our healthcare and government structure.
Here’s what we need to solve for:
Privacy: We need to protect our privacy while enabling workflows like track and trace, as well as analytics that predict risk.
Governance: We need controls in place so we know exactly who has access to what and why.
Interoperability: We need to address our healthcare system's infamous lack of interoperability. Books, papers, and billions of dollars have been wasted on this topic.
Federated, Distributed and Queryable Storage
Here’s the good news. While privacy, governance, and interoperability of all the relevant health data may be intractable in the short term, it is entirely possible to solve the same challenges if we focus on only one problem — Coronavirus — and move aggressively.
How Would it All Work?
The core idea is fairly simple: allow various stakeholders to retain control of the data while enabling federated data collaboration using privacy-preserving technologies like multi-party computations, homomorphic encryption, etc.
Instead of bringing all the data to some centralized warehouse — an approach that keeps failing — we propose a radically new fully decentralized architecture.
We are engaged with a select group of healthcare providers, senior government officials, and healthcare experts. If you would like to collaborate on this with us, drop me a line.