NFTs offer a new way to control personal health information

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NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, created using blockchain technology, first caused a stir in the art world as a platform to buy and sell contract-backed digital art. digital. But could digital NFT contracts be useful in other markets? A global, multidisciplinary team of academics in ethics, law, and computer science led by bioethicists from Baylor College of Medicine has written one of the first comments on how this emerging new technology could be repurposed for the healthcare industry. health.

In a new issue in the journal Science, the researchers propose that the tool could help patients gain more control over their personal health information. NFT digital contracts could offer patients the ability to specify who can access their personal health information and track how it is shared.

“Our personal health information is completely beyond our control in terms of what happens to it once it is digitized into an electronic health record and how it is marketed and traded from there,” said Dr. Kristin Kostick-Quenet, first author of the paper and assistant professor at Baylor’s Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy. “NFTs could be used to democratize health data and help individuals regain control and be more involved in decisions about who can see and use their health information.”

“In the age of big data, health information is its own currency; it became a commodity and became profitable,” said Dr. Amy McGuire, lead author of the paper and Leon Jaworski Professor of Biomedical Ethics and Director of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor. “The use of NFTs for health data is the perfect storm between a huge evolving market and the popularity of cryptocurrency, but there are also many ethical, legal and social implications to consider.”

The researchers point out that NFTs are still vulnerable to data security breaches, privacy issues, and disputes over intellectual property rights. Additionally, the complexity of NFTs can prevent the average person from capitalizing on their potential. The researchers believe it is important to consider the potential benefits and challenges as NFTs emerge as a potential avenue to transform the world of health data.

“Federal regulations already give patients the right to connect an app of their choice to their doctor’s electronic health record and download their data in a computable format,” said paper co-author Dr. Kenneth Mandl. , director of Computational Health Informatics. Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and Donald AB Lindberg Professor of Pediatrics and Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School. “It is intriguing to wonder whether NFTs or NFT-like technology could enable the intentional sharing of this data in smart contracts in the future.”

Dr. Timo Minssen, I. Glenn Cohen, Dr. Urs Gasser and Dr. Isaac Kohane also contributed to this publication.

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More information:
Kristin Kostick-Quenet, How NFTs Could Transform the Exchange of Health Information, Science (2022). DOI: 10.1126/science.abm2004.

Provided by Baylor College of Medicine

Quote: NFTs offer a new method to control personal health information (2022, February 3) retrieved February 3, 2022 from

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