19th May 2022
If you’re new to NFT-related stocks, you might think that they are only of interest to gamers and cyber-nerds. But more NFT-related companies are appearing in new sectors, using NFTs in ways you couldn’t have imagined, to resolve pressing issues across a range of industries.
One of the most recent emerging NFT trends is that of NFTs and healthcare. Thought leaders are watching this space closely, while investors are wondering how NFT innovations will impact on NFT investing.
What is an NFT?
Many people are still wondering what are NFTs, what is NFT crypto, and how any of these might affect their lives. On a basic level, NFT stands for non-fungible token. These are tokens built on the blockchain which cannot be erased or altered, so they can prove ownership and thus create value for digital assets.
NFTs also ensure that data stored within them can be reliably tracked, secured from prying eyes, and accessed by verified parties whenever required. Some movers and shakers in the NFT space are already putting these functionalities to use to improve and transform health and wellness.
The metaverse stimulates patient-led health
Patient-led health centers around encouraging people to take responsibility for long-term health by eating well, exercising, meditating, monitoring health metrics like blood pressure or cholesterol, and other acts of self-care.
The latest approach carries that attitude to the metaverse, a collection of interoperable shared online worlds that allow users to move from platform to platform with the same avatar, wealth, and digital possessions. A health-oriented metaverse would establish digital communities where people support each other to live a healthier lifestyle. The Lost Cat Community is a health and wellness-focused community that you join by buying an NFT membership token.1 Tuff Guys NFT is a mental health awareness community which raises awareness about and provides support for people with mental health issues.
Singapore-based start-up Engin offers another variation: NFT personas called Health Heroes, which “live” in the Health Hero City metaverse.2 These “wellbeing NFTs”, or W-NFTs, link with health tracking devices and apps like Apple Health, Google Fit, and FitBit. When you care for your health — exercise, meditate, eat well, get your wellness checkup, etc — your NFT alter ego gains new unique characteristics that make it rarer, which is the root of all value in the metaverse.
Secure, transparent health data storage
The US isn’t alone in lacking an integrated digital healthcare system, where patient medical data is fragmented, siloed in legacy formats, and at risk of data breaches, making it close to impossible to share vital data when needed.
It’s estimated that more than 1.2 billion clinical documents are issued in the US each year, but around 80% of them go unseen3. Caregivers and patients are often ignorant of key health issues or unable to access crucial medical records, causing unnecessary treatments and late or erroneous diagnosis of medical conditions.
Because they exist on the blockchain, NFTs can store and share patient data securely, preventing it from being falsified, lost, or stolen, while still enabling medical records to be viewed easily by those who need to see them and new data to be added at any time. The practical implications are manifold.
1. Real time medical data sharing
A health data NFT can store someone’s complete medical history, so it can be shared with any medical practitioner. If someone with fibromyalgia has a flareup on vacation and is admitted to the local hospital, for example, the doctors caring for them can be just as well-informed about their needs and history as their long-term physician at home.
QR codes can also be generated from NFT codes and hold emergency information like serious allergies that any first on the scene EMS technician might need to know.
As an added bonus, a medical data NFT can be updated and read in real time, improving collaboration and patient-centric care. “NFTs have the potential to give the power and responsibility of medical records back to the patient, creating more transparency and streamlining the healthcare experience4,” writes Lauren Wert in HackerNoon.
The heated debate around COVID-19 vaccines, and the number of people presenting fake vaccine passports, is sharpening the need for tamper-evident health records that can’t be falsified. As a blockchain product, the data stored on NFTs can’t be changed without record.
Likewise, NFT tokenization can be applied to the problem of counterfeit drugs. By minting an NFT for each batch, pharmaceutical companies can track the movement of authentic drugs, and pharmacies and patients can easily verify if their medication is genuine.
Predictive medicine rests on health Internet of Things (IoT) devices which constantly monitor patient health data, lag-free data sharing, and powerful analytics. But patient agreement is crucial.
Health NFTs can reassure the public that their health data won’t be hacked or shared without permission. As well as improving individual health outcomes for the person at risk of a heart attack, for example, reliable mass health data could improve public health decision-making regarding allocation of resources, the pace of vaccination, and direction of preventive health programs.
Patient control over medical data
Using NFTs to store health data also has the effect of returning control back to patients to decide with whom to share their data, and when and how to permit that access. People can choose how to monetize their health data; someone with a rare medical condition could sell their data to a pharmaceutical company trying to develop a new drug, for example.
Patients are more likely to use health apps and monitors if they’ll reap the benefits from the data they accrue, rather than the platform owners who have profited up until now. In this vein, two former doctors launched Aimedis, the first medical and scientific NFT marketplace, where patients can sell their own medical data as NFTs.5
As Tal Elyashiv, founder and managing partner of SPiCE VC, the first fully tokenized venture capital fund, writes, “The possibilities to revolutionize patient data ownership and access are endless – all of which offer the industry the opportunity to increase efficiencies and lower costs6“
Tracking health resources
Managing donated blood supplies is an ongoing challenge. Health care systems need to know exactly which blood supplies they have to hand, including rare blood types, and be able to track the provenance of every pint of blood or blood product back to the donors in seconds, in case of fear of contamination.
There’s also a new need for blood with antibodies against specific diseases like COVID-19. Blood NFTs, or “blood on the blockchain,” can do all this and more.7
NFTs could be the shot in the arm that healthcare has been waiting for
Sometimes, help comes from the most unlikely places. The fragmented, trust-damaged healthcare system has been in need of reform for a long time, but nobody could have predicted that it would come from blockchain technology.
For investors tracking the price of NFT-related stock, the symbiosis of NFTs and healthcare can only be good news. NFTs might have begun with digital art and gaming, but their ability to protect, update, and share data is causing them to mushroom in new industries like health and wellness, adding to the perceived stability of the sector.
As healthcare use cases grow, more people are wondering not just “what are NFT-related stocks?” but also how to invest in NFTs. One alternative to minting your own W-NFT or hoping to choose what you feel is the best NFT-related company stock, is to invest in an ETF, like NFTZ from the Defiance ETFs. This approach can spread your investment capital across a number of promising companies involved in various aspects of the NFT ecosystem, helping mitigate your exposure to single-stock selection risk while broadening your portfolio’s exposure to companies at the forefront of the NFT-related space.
1 “Prioritizing Health & Wellness with NFTs” October 14, 2021 https://medium.com/@LostCatFC/prioritizing-mental-health-with-nfts-9aaf4d69ea36
3 “Tal’s NFT take: Healthcare is the Newest Frontier for NFTs” November 30, 2021 https://www.thestreet.com/defi/digital-finance-investing/healthcare-is-the-newest-frontier-for-nfts
4 “Healthcare, NFTs, and the Blockchain” November 4, 2021 https://hackernoon.com/healthcare-nfts-and-the-blockchain
6 “Tal’s NFT take: Healthcare is the Newest Frontier for NFTs” November 30, 2021 https://www.thestreet.com/defi/digital-finance-investing/healthcare-is-the-newest-frontier-for-nfts
7 “Blood on the Blockchain: Tokenizing Can Make Donations More Effective” August 2, 2020 https://cointelegraph.com/news/blood-on-the-blockchain-tokenizing-can-make-donations-more-effective