NEW YORK – Dr. Leah Houston is an Emergency Medicine Physician practicing precision medicine in New York. She is also the founder of HPEC.IO (Humanitarian Physician Empowerment Community) a Blockchain technology that has major implications for physicians and the health care system at large. Dr. Houston took time out of her busy schedule to talk with The National Herald about Blockchain and health care, as well as her Greek heritage.
TNH: Could you tell us a bit about your background, where is the family from originally?
Dr. Leah Houston: Both my great grandparents on my mother’s side were Greeks from Asia Minor. My great grandfather was from Unye, and immigrated here in 1909. He came following his brother, a physician who graduated from Albany Medical College, the same medical school I went to. He returned to Greece in 1927 where he met my great-grandmother. She had been born in Fatsa (present day Turkey) in 1905, but was exiled at the age of 17, back to Katerini, Greece in 1922 during the population exchange that took place after the war. She married my great-grandfather in Katerini, and they returned to upstate New York together in 1927. My father was second generation Norwegian, and his family settled in New Jersey and New York as well but he met my mother when they were both living in California. He converted to Greek Orthodox to marry my mother, and they both returned to New York after I was born.
TNH: Did you always want to go into medicine?
LH: I always had an aptitude for science and was fascinated by it. I also was drawn to politics and advocacy. I realized that as a physician you are both a scientist and an advocate for your patients- so that is what led me to choose this career.
TNH: You contributed a chapter to the first Blockchain and healthcare text book, Blockchain in Healthcare: Innovations that Empower Patients, Connect Professionals and Improve Care, published in January by Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), a non-profit organization which promotes “better health through information and technology,” according to its website. Tell us how you became involved with the project.
LH: I’m the founder of HPEC, a company that is working towards an identity solution for physicians. We all know healthcare is expensive, administrative waste is one large contributor to the expense. As medicine advances, identifying and organizing those who are contributing to the healthcare system is becoming a large contributor to administrative waste. Identity solutions for physicians will eliminate that waste, reducing not only the cost of healthcare but also time-consuming burdens physicians experience in practice that contribute to burnout. HIMSS noticed the project and thought that was important to include, so they asked me to write a chapter.
TNH: What's the most important thing people should know about the subject?
LH: About the subject of Blockchain, it is similar to the Internet- it’s going to change how we do things, and it’s going to be applied across industries, commerce, finance, healthcare, education, etc. All will be implementing blockchain projects in the near future.
In regards to healthcare, Blockchain has the ability to alleviate some of the most pressing issues. Examples of potential applications include promotion of price, transparency, improving administrative waste, and alleviating many privacy and security concerns.
Right now, we are on the development side of the project, working on forming alliances with the Blockchain development firms who will help us build the project. We are also crowdfunding from physicians. Our goal is to keep this physician-owned in order to keep it integrity-based.
TNH: What inspires you most in your work?
LH: The same thing that inspired me to become a physician in the first place. I went to medicine to help people, to put patients first. While practicing I saw an ongoing consolidation and vertical integration of healthcare which is placing a wedge between doctor and patient. I know that this technology has the ability to remove that wedge and bring the humanity back to healthcare.
TNH: Does your Greek heritage inform your work and if so, how?
LH: I think so- I’m a Pontian woman. The ancient Greek Pontian women were called the Amazons, and they were warriors. I am a healthcare warrior, a fierce advocate for the patient and physician. I am a defender of the Greek oath of Hippocrates against the special interest invasion on the doctor-patient relationship.
More information is available online: www.hpec.io by signing up for Dr. Houston’s newsletter, and by following on Twitter: @LeahHoustonMD and @HPECDAO, as well as on Instagram and Facebook.
The Blockchain and healthcare text book, Blockchain in Healthcare: Innovations that Empower Patients, Connect Professionals and Improve Care is available online through CRC Press: www.crcpress.com.