Using Blockchain to Improve Healthcare Information Management

Scientists from Baylor College of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Technical University of Munich, and the University of Copenhagen have made a case for NFTs; or at least, for an NFT-like personal health information framework that could give consumers control over their personal health data.

The paper argues that personal health information “is highly valued and will become centrally important as big data and machine learning move to the forefront of health care and translational research,” but that the “current health information exchange (HIE) market is dominated by commercial and (to a lesser extent) not-for-profit entities and typically excludes patients,” which can “undermine trust and create incentives for sharing data.”

“Patients have limited agency in deciding which of their data is shared, with whom, and under what conditions. Within this context, new forms of digital ownership can inspire a digital marketplace for patient-controlled health data,” the paper continues. “We argue that nonfungible tokens (NFTs) or NFT-like frameworks can help incentivize a more democratized, transparent, and efficient system for HIE in which patients participate in decisions about how and with whom their PHI is shared.”

The paper bolsters an argument that ARK Investment Management analysts made back in 2016: that using blockchain technology could reduce the high costs connected to the healthcare industry by improving its inefficient data systems.

“The way in which blockchain technology could be used is it could record pointers to all of this information in different databases that doctors could only access if they have the right permissions,” according to ARK. “Because of how a blockchain is structured, that data would remain secure, private, and impractical to tamper with, which would make doctors, patients, and insurance payers happy.”

ARK analyst Ali Urman recently wrote: “The US spends more than $3 trillion – nearly 20% of GDP – annually on healthcare, in part because of inefficient and ineffective data management systems. Recent advances in blockchain technologies and legal frameworks suggest that the time is ripe to focus on public blockchains and solve systemic, data-related weaknesses in the healthcare system.”

The ARK Next Generation Internet ETF (NYSEArca: ARKW) features healthy exposure to the blockchain and has several holdings levered to the themes of blockchain and digital asset ownership, including Coinbase (NASDAQ:COIN), Block (NYSE:SQ), and DraftKings (NASDAQ:DKNG).

According to ARK, ARKW is an actively managed equities fund that invests “in the US listed securities, including ADRs, of companies focused on next generation internet.” This includes companies that “aim to capture the substantial benefits of new products and services associated with scientific research and technological break-throughs in internet-based products and services, new payment methods, blockchain technology, big data, the internet of things, mobile, social and streaming media.”

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