The COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role in the acceleration of the implementation of digital health solutions such as telemedicine, artificital intelligence (“AI”), robotics, remote monitoring and the Internet of Medical Things (“IoMT”). The collection and flow of health data increased as a result, and this trend is predicted to continue as patients and healthcare professionals become more used to digital solutions and as the healthcare sector prepares to meet future problems with developing technologies.
With such developments, a group of medical innovators predicts increasing demand for privacy-preserving solutions to enable patients to take more responsibility for their health and to improve the applications of data for clinical care and medical research. In a recent editorial published in “Nature Medicine,” the SingHealth team investigated the usage of NFTs as a viable data-management solution to close this gap and transform data interchange in the healthcare industry.
An NFT is a single-owner, tradeable, irreplaceable digital data unit that is stored on the blockchain. Health data such as NFTs may be created, transferred and stored utilizing blockchain technology, which has similar interoperability, transparency and uniqueness properties.
By leveraging the same technology, patients will be able to control their own health data and exchange it with other stakeholders, including healthcare professionals, as digital assets. By using a health wallet housed on a secure mobile or web-based application, each patient can store, own, save and share their data as NFTs, making this method of data management convenient, private and secure.
The primary distinction between current commercial NFT markets and a health data blockchain ledger is that the latter can be configured to exclude the public from accessing its data. Patients will be given complete ownership of their personal health information in this way, and they will be responsible for keeping it secure and sharing it as needed. This guarantees that each person provides accurate and full health information and gives them the ability to take a more active role in managing their health, which has been shown to have better long-term healthcare outcomes.
Additionally, due to the traceable and immutable characteristics of blockchain, exchanging health data as NFTs guarantees total accuracy and transparency of the data used in healthcare research. This results in increased data integrity and better study outcomes because researchers can be confident in the veracity of the data they are using in their studies.
Besides storing and sharing health data, the technology can be used in other aspects of health care, such as drug production, where every drug created can be encoded and saved on a blockchain ledger. The drug’s whole supply chain can be followed, from production to delivery to the final consumer. This makes it possible for drug verification to stop the sale of fake medications as well as the abuse of medicines by patients and healthcare professionals.
As with the implementation of any new development, there are critical decisions to be made and hurdles to overcome, and NFT-based health-data management is no exception. For instance, stakeholders need to determine whether it is possible to set up the necessary technological infrastructure as well as implement various measures to ensure data security and reduce risks such as NFT theft, which is not unheard of in the commercial NFT market.
Regardless, NFTs in the healthcare industry have a wide range of exciting potential advantages and may one day completely alter how health data is managed.
As companies such as Coinbase Global Inc. (NASDAQ: COIN) continue to make it easier for people to use digital assets, including cryptos, these technologies stand a high chance of proliferating further into every industry as their benefits become all too apparent.
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