There is no denying the fun and excitement surrounding NFTs and their corresponding communities. The art scene is booming, and other industries like music and gaming are starting to capitalize on the opportunities NFTs have created. While the space is growing quickly, most projects are doing little to advance NFTs on a macroscale.
First of all, let’s define what an NFT is. An NFT is simply a non-fungible token. It is a unique token that sits on a blockchain. Every NFT has a one-of-a-kind digital ID, and this digital ID can hold a variety of assets. They also exist on a public ledger. For those considering tokenizing sensitive information, this is where many stop listening. While it sounds paradoxical, this is where blockchain can change the paradigm of many industries. If we are able to tokenize private records and safely encrypt them on a public ledger, people will be able to practice self-custody. Records will also be verifiable and auditable in real-time, creating a transparency we’ve never seen before.
One major industry this can and should disrupt: our healthcare system. Our health records are kept in our designated healthcare network, which is incredibly inefficient. There are many reasons we may be out-of-network, from emergencies to specialist referrals. The pandemic has exacerbated this problem, increasing the probability of visiting a healthcare provider outside your network.
There are several advantages to tokenizing our medical records and holding them as an NFT on a public blockchain. First of all, the public cannot see sensitive information. That information is encrypted with sophisticated cryptography, and owners choose the information they want shared on the public blockchain. A single NFT can hold numerous files, with transaction IDs and detailed history stored on the blockchain and in the NFT itself. NFTs can be updated and verified in real-time, which streamlines the process for hospitals and patients. It also allows for a “master document” of records that can be verified at any hospital or doctor’s office, and audited by the owner, instead of having pieces of hospital records scattered among different hospital networks and requiring work from patients and providers to consolidate those records to one place.
Example scenario: a PCP orders an MRI, and the closest provider is private practice and out of network. There are consent forms to release the results from one practice to another. Even after signing all of the paperwork, the PCP may never receive the faxed MRI report. With an NFT, you can upload consent forms and results, keeping all records in one place. Most importantly, it can all be verified on a public ledger.
There are so many potential uses for NFTs in healthcare. NFT codes can be generated as QR codes to hold emergency medical information, like allergies or health conditions, in case the owner is incapacited and unable to communicate with EMS in an emergency situation. Real-time updates can be sent between PCPs and other healthcare specialists, allowing for easier collaboration and more patient-centric care.
We’ve never had the technology to consolidate medical records into a master document, and we’ve certainly never had the ability to be the custodian of that document. NFTs have the potential to give the power and responsibility of medical records back to the patient, creating more transparency and streamlining the healthcare experience. Instead of waiting weeks for the results of important tests, patients could have them as soon as they’re available through blockchain technology.
Patients with complicated medical histories wouldn’t have to spend time and energy explaining their medical history, because it would all exist in one place. Hospitals would be able to verify procedures on a public ledger. The possibilities are endless, and the implications for patients are huge. The question is, will NFTs evolve beyond jpegs to completely change our healthcare industry?