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NFTs in healthcare – will data become the new currency?

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We weigh in if medical data can be monetised and who will be the main stakeholders.

Medical data until now is siloed because of its unique intellectual property, and despite being highly valuable, monetising it remains a challenge as individuals are afraid of using or losing medical data. So, how could NFTs represent a unique potential in the digital age, and will patients be able to own their digital healthcare data? 

Aimedis founders Michael J. Kaldasch and Ben O. El Idrissi, who also serve as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer, respectively, have the answer. Aimedis, a blockchain-enabled healthcare platform, was among the first to launch an NFT science and medical data marketplace in 2021 and created the first NFTs for cardiologic patients containing ECG information, successfully treating patients in the metaverse. 

It also works in partnership with the World Federation for Neurorehabilitation, which serves up to 100 million patients and aims to use medical Metaverse for VR rehabilitation services.  

In an exclusive interview with Omnia Health, Kaldasch and Idrissi speak about how NFTs can offer solutions for several stakeholders within healthcare. 

How will NFTs change the way we use medical data? 

Kaldasch: Medical data has two major issues — it holds intellectual property and contains royalties that must be paid. NFTs are unique pieces of information on the blockchain that is incorruptible and can be connected to smart contracts, paying out royalties to all involved. Therefore, NFTs hold potential solutions for sharing and using medical data. 

This solution can be paired with specific conditions. For example, NFTs can be used within a limit by certain entities. Furthermore, it gives individuals the opportunity to track their data and receive feedback while maintaining anonymity, giving them control over their data. The NFTS on the marketplace that we have built are depersonalised anonymised data, which is why we believe that it could give patients, care providers, data and AI companies an opportunity to monetise and mainstream medical data, breaking up the silos. 

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Ben O. El Idrissi, Founder and Chief Operating Officer
 

Idrissi: When it comes to healthcare information, usability is key to consider. This brings up the question ‘how can processes be facilitated in healthcare’ and blockchain could be the answer to that. However, when it comes to storing healthcare data on blockchain, size can be a challenge.  

With NFTs, we have elevated the game with seamless access and transferability. For example, collecting data is a process involving a variety of stakeholders in healthcare, from various institutions. These institutions receive data from hospitals and their various departments to create a valuable information package. 

These portions of data cannot be accessed through an easy transaction and are usually bound by a contract or agreement between the different stakeholders involved. NFTs not only include information, but also the agreement between stakeholders. This is appealing for professionals, as it minimises costs, improves time management, and prioritises efficiency. 

How will NFTs impact the field of scientific and medical research? 

Kaldasch: Scientists can experience challenges in securing third party funding for their research. NFTs not only act as a tool to crowdfund their research but for the first time in science, researchers can become empowered to independently make new discoveries in fields like rare diseases. 

The pharmaceutical industry needs to be cash positive, so it can increase revenue for its stakeholders. However, this can hold them back from conducting research in niche fields, as there is no guarantee of viable results. Even if the results are viable, they may not have a mass impact, with only a small fraction of patients in need of the drug. For Big Pharma this does not make practical sense, but NFTs can enable smaller groups of people to fund such research, opening a completely new door to developments in certain research fields.  

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Michael J. Kaldasch, Founder and Chief Executive Officer
 

Who are the stakeholders in healthcare and how do they benefit from NFTs? 

Kaldasch: Our NFT marketplace is a B2B platform, and we primarily focus on solutions for doctors, study nurses, CROs, hospitals, researchers in pharma and AI companies. We also support new users or providers of data, like car manufacturers and space agencies. Essentially any party collecting medical data to an extent can be considered a stakeholder, as they can provide, purchase, or sell that medical data. For instance, an automotive company that builds self-driving cars may need medical data to interpret behaviours of people while they drive. This can help distinguish between a medical emergency and normal behavioural patterns.  

The challenge with allowing patients to collect medical data lies in their lack of specialisation, as they would be unable to accurately interpret the meaning of this information, with even a possibility of fraud. People may also generate NFTs and sell fake medical data, which defeats the purpose of NFTs.  

Idrissi: There is a lot of public interest in the monetisation of data, especially from those keen on decentralisation and distributed economics. However, in healthcare, we always must emphasise responsibility. For instance, in a healthcare institution monetisation of data by other patients should not be directly allowed. The healthcare organisation responsible for the patient should be involved, regardless of the data quality, otherwise, the risk is too high. Large corporations already own big amounts of highly valuable data that are packed and categorised as CT or MRI scans and it makes sense for these entities to transact and exchange information.  

Of course, we will aim to create opportunities for hospitals to build a relationship with their patients such as creating a payment option with your data in exchange for treatments. This could help create a revenue stream in regions that struggle with finance and poor infrastructure and create opportunities for them to interact with stakeholders globally. For patients, data will be used as currency to access healthcare. 

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