The world seems to be divided into two groups when it comes to non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the new type of digital certificate that verifies one thing as unique. The “pro NFT” factions see it as a new approach to finance and digital media. Those "No NFT" underline the risk of speculation and the heavy ecological impact.
In addition to millionaire art sales and the fact that they consume the energy of entire countries, NFTs have potential applications (good and bad) in several fields. Healthcare, for example, where they could attribute to patients the unique ownership of their digital health data. One thing that seems obvious, but today it is not.
The potential of NFTs in healthcare is not yet known (nor is it known the true story of the NFTs themselves). Do I make a short recap?
What is an NFT?
Crowning him as the Word of the year for 2021, the dictionary publisher Collins defines a non-fungible token as a "unique digital certificate, registered in a blockchain, which is used to register the ownership of an asset as a work of art or a collector's item".
The technology is based on a decentralized network of computers that verify the validity of a transaction. The blockchain can, of course, also be used in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, protecting sensitive medical data and reducing the risk of drug counterfeiting.
The use (and abuse) of health data today
Just as NFTs appear to have disrupted the art world, they could (positively?) Disrupt the digital health landscape by giving patients unprecedented control over their medical information.
Personal health sensors and apps will give patients more and more personalized health data to help them manage their health. This private information is still largely controlled by the companies that provide these services. Companies that often profit from it, and sometimes without the knowledge of patients.
You know this 23rd? It is a company that sells a kind of genetic kit to learn more about their DNA and their ancestors. The company intends to develop drugs based on the database of health data accumulated by customers. Have you all been informed? In an explicit and clear way?
It is not fair for companies and private institutions to make money from patient data in this way. If there is a paradigm shift (and I believe there will be) patients will be accountable, but also entitled to profit from their own health data.
The potential of NFT in the health sector
Let's say you decide to order a DNA test kit. You know this company may sell your health data to third parties for research purposes, but order the product anyway because it is very accurate and affordable.
However, selling your genetic data and those of others can generate millions in profits for the company. Millions that he will never share with you. Unless your health records are certified as NFT.
In that case you would be able to trace the whole "supply chain", see how they are used and 'hit' those who use them without having received express authorization. Because you are the sole owner of your health data, an NFT certifies it. In the future, you may receive a royalty on every use of that health data - kind of like artists with royalties, when someone plays their songs.
With an NFT approach, healthcare organizations could invite patients to participate in research and receive a portion of the profits. You could become a “shareholder” of healthcare startups by “investing” with your data in exchange for future dividends. In other words, with NFT, patients would have more control over their medical records, even deciding to use them for profit.
Is it the future or will it be a trend?
If you read the blog you know how I think. I have included NFTs among the things that they will almost certainly disappoint us in 2022. I believe they need to be explored and regulated, but I do not escape the need to observe such a disruptive phenomenon.
Also because, especially in the health field, there are several startups that are already exploring NFT as a solution. One of these is called Aimedis, and has a medical NFT marketplace where patients can participate in transactions involving their health data. Others (such as a health monitoring app, “Go!”) Produce “wellness NFTs,” or W-NFTs, which you can trade on a marketplace.
Doubts? Those of always. Blockchain technology employs enormous energy for its operation, with the production of significant CO2 emissions. Given the situation, they may not be as profitable in the near future as in this initial "honeymoon".
This, however, is a situation that could be resolved: perhaps with more sustainable processes and dynamics. Rather, it remains to be seen whether companies offering digital health services will want to adopt NFTs. They may not like the idea of having to share their money with patients. They usually make money from patients, not the other way around.