To many, the blockchain is the mystifying technology behind cryptocurrency; to the start-up company TransCrypts, it’s a way for Ukrainian refugees to access their medical records and employees to control the official documents usually kept by HR departments.
TransCrypts is a document verification platform making waves in Silicon Valley. It recently landed $2.4 million (USD) in funding from backers including Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban. At the helm is 23-year-old CEO Zain Zaidi, who grew the start-up with co-founder and CTO Ali Zaheer in The Hub, an entrepreneurial incubator at U of T Scarborough. Early funding came from both The Hub and U of T Entrepreneurship — with $5,000 and $10,000 respectively won in start-up competitions last year.
“Our goal is to give you control of all your documents,” says Zaidi. “We can do away with this 20th-century way of verifying documents and create a world where I can instantly show you who I am, my employment and income history and, hopefully one day, my criminal and medical history.”
The company uses blockchain technology to break files into thousands of pieces, or blocks, and store them on computers around the world. The files are so thoroughly encrypted even TransCrypts itself can’t access them without direct permission. For official documents such as medical records, the credentials that make a file legitimate are converted to a block in its blockchain. Owners can share and access those verified files, but can’t alter them.
“One thing we really pride ourselves on is that we don’t store your data like a lot of big tech companies,” Zaidi says. “We consider ourselves like the postal service. We’re delivering the letter. We don't open it, we don’t know what’s inside, we’re just helping share it.”
Thousands of Ukrainian refugees access medical records with pilot project
TransCrypts’ power-to-the-people approach could be a jolt to the health-care system. Zaheer says health-care providers often use different platforms to store electronic health records, leaving patients with a disjointed medical history scattered across clinics and hospitals.
“Patients are unable to easily take their complete health data and records with them if they change hospitals or relocate,” says Zaheer, a graduate of U of T Scarborough’s computer science program. “This makes it very hard for doctors to see the history and rationality or decisions made by previous doctors.”
TransCrypts is developing a way to let both patients and health-care providers easily access and share electronic health records via the blockchain. When the war in Ukraine broke out, the company worked with grassroots organizations helping refugees to set the idea in motion.
“A lot of refugees didn’t have their medical records and couldn’t contact hospitals that were now in a war zone,” Zaidi says. “They were receiving poor quality health-care because they didn’t know the local language and couldn’t communicate, say, an allergy to a medication or a proxy condition that would impact treatment.”
TransCrypts’ pilot project let Ukrainian hospitals upload medical records straight to its virtual platform. Refugees were then able to view, access and share their records with health-care providers via QR codes, and translate them into their host country’s language through a built-in feature. The project has given more than 4,000 refugees direct access to their medical records, and TransCrypts found an almost 40 per cent increase in the quality of their health-care.
Blockchain-based service freeing up thousands of hours for HR departments
Zaidi says easily accessing medical records could let any patient avoid waiting for their files, while also bypassing the fees hospitals and clinics often charge to share them. The same logic applies to any official documents usually held by an organization — being able to send one’s criminal history would negate the need for background checks, and independently sending transcripts from schools or confirmations of employment would streamline fact-checking for resumes and other applications.
Getting a mortgage, lease or loan typically requires official documents that verify income or employment, which HR departments generate and send on behalf of employees. TransCrypts offers a service that integrates with an HR department’s existing software and lets employees access their own verification documents. Employees can then email their files straight to the third parties requesting them — and the email comes from their employer’s email address, adding to the validity.
Last year, the more than 100 organizations using TransCrypts saved almost 180,000 hours they would have normally spent filling employment and income verification requests. The start-up's user base spans more than 300,000 employees and boasts an almost 99 per cent satisfaction rating.
“HR departments love us because they don't have to worry about filling these requests anymore and consumers love us because now they don't have to worry about being the middle person between HR and the bank,” Zaidi says.