2020 saw the rise of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. Unlike other cryptocurrencies, which are used as a form of money or digital asset, NFTs are intended to be the equivalent of a certificate of authenticity. They act to give permission to own a portion of a digital representation of a tangible asset. Everything from works of digital art, music, to bits of video was exchanged with NFTs. NFT sales have reached an estimated 3 billion in the first part of 2021 alone.
While it is straightforward to see the advantages of NFTs in the entertainment industry, the same framework can be applied in the world of healthcare. Your health data, pharmaceutical drugs and elements of the human composition such as blood can be represented by NFTs.
In fact, blood donation organizations already encourage the use of NFTs for blood donations. Blood donors are marked with a specific token that can then be followed through the system. The donation can then be followed from transport to the hospital, into a blood bank, and into its eventual recipient. Blood can then be registered by its NFT into a digital “blood bank” where the need for particular blood types can be tracked by a blockchain system and delivered to where it is most needed.
On the other hand, the use case for manufacture of pharmaceuticals using NFTs could mark a particular batch of drugs, making it both easier to track and mark it off as authentic. Any issues in the process could be identified by those who track it through the system, allowing problems to be fixed much more quickly. If a drug was recalled from the market, it could be marked on the NFT and brought to the attention of anyone who was able to track it. Prescription orders could also be connected to an NFT, easily tying them back to whoever wrote them and preventing forged prescriptions.
One of the most promising uses of NFTs in healthcare is in the representation of health data. Today, patients are aware their data exists, but usually have no access to it or control over where it goes. Recently, Alphabet Inc.’s Google and national hospital chain HCA Healthcare Inc.
According to Karly Rowe, Vice President Patient Access, Identity, and Care Management Product at Experian Health, patients that are aware of their data and understand how it’s being managed can help ensure accuracy and therefore their own quality of care and security. They should also understand and trust how a healthcare organization is managing its data. Despite these risks, many healthcare organizations still don’t have a comprehensive patient identity management strategy in place. Identity truly is the backbone of healthcare’s digital transformation and identity management demands enterprise-level thought, strategy and solutions. Inaccurate or incomplete patient information poses serious, even fatal, risks to patients, while patient identity management can have multiple impacts across an organization – both financial and reputational. For instance, Experian Health created the first Universal Patient Identifier (UPI) approved by The National Council of Prescription Drug Program (NCPDP) to meet new pharmacy billing and electronic prescribing standards that go into effect in January 2022.
With all of these advantages, it’s safe to conclude NFTs are not only reserved for artwork or slam dunks from your favorite NBA player. Earning for the use of your data may be sooner than later, although it is evident that is long overdue for patients to control their data.