The Abid Hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan, has become the first hospital in Asia to accept payments in cryptocurrency. Patients get a 20% discount when they pay in Pakcoins.

Abid is a fairly new hospital, opened in January 2015. It is primarily a surgical facility and lists a staff of nine doctors. It accepts a limited number of charity cases.

While BitcoinA Cryptocurrency address is used to receive and send transactions on the network. An address is most commonly represented as a string of alphanumeric characters and sometimes referred to as wallets. Addresses can also be represented as a scannable QR code. remains secure as the world’s leading cryptocurrencyA Cryptocurrency address is used to receive and send transactions on the network. An address is most commonly represented as a string of alphanumeric characters and sometimes referred to as wallets. Addresses can also be represented as a scannable QR code., it has become less suitable for some purposes than it used to be. It was the first of its kind, and its creator, the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, didn’t expect today’s widespread use. Transactions require confirmationA chain of custody refers to documentation or paper trail, in order of time, which shows the seizure, custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of evidence. for recipients to be sure they’ve been paid; otherwise, dishonest people could spend the same money twice. The time to complete confirmationA chain of custody refers to documentation or paper trail, in order of time, which shows the seizure, custody, control, transfer, analysis, and disposition of evidence. has grown long, sometimes taking hours.  The associated fees have grown large enough to discourage Bitcoin’s use for small payments.

Many alternative currencies have entered the competition, offering solutions to these problems. PakCoin is specifically aimed at Pakistanis, though it can be used anywhere. Up to 150,000 Pakistanis can get 50 Pakcoins (a very small amount at current exchange rates) for free. It claims “nearly instant transactions” and very low or zero processing fees. It’s derived from Litecoin, which was designed to handle higher transaction volumes than BitcoinA Cryptocurrency address is used to receive and send transactions on the network. An address is most commonly represented as a string of alphanumeric characters and sometimes referred to as wallets. Addresses can also be represented as a scannable QR code.. Like Litecoin, it relies on an algorithm known as scrypt.

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Pakcoin and Litecoin use the same blockchainA Blockchain computing system treats the Blockchain as a secure computation platform that can be shared among multiple vendors. concepts as BitcoinA Cryptocurrency address is used to receive and send transactions on the network. An address is most commonly represented as a string of alphanumeric characters and sometimes referred to as wallets. Addresses can also be represented as a scannable QR code.. There are multiple copies of the ledgerA central ledger refers to a ledger maintained by a central agency. Also known as a general ledger.. New blocks are created by “mining,” which requires computational effort and is rewarded by newly created units of currency. The code is open source.

The advantages of cryptocurrencyA Cryptocurrency address is used to receive and send transactions on the network. An address is most commonly represented as a string of alphanumeric characters and sometimes referred to as wallets. Addresses can also be represented as a scannable QR code.

An interview with the developer of Pakcoin (who goes by the name Pakcoin) discloses some of its purposes. A key goal is to make it usable for ordinary people who don’t know much about cryptocurrencyA Cryptocurrency address is used to receive and send transactions on the network. An address is most commonly represented as a string of alphanumeric characters and sometimes referred to as wallets. Addresses can also be represented as a scannable QR code. or blockchains. Eventually people will be able to associate wallets with user names, so that they can accept payments at an address with a recognizable name.

Pakistan isn’t a wealthy country. The average annual income is about $1500 in US currency. Investment and savings are low. Only 15% of Pakistanis have bank accounts. Cryptocurrency can be a useful tool for people who don’t have bank accounts or credit cards. The challenges in Pakistan are strong; only about a quarter of the population has a mobile Internet connection. Smartphone adoption is growing fast, though, and could exceed 50% by 2020.

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The risks

CryptocurrencyA Cryptocurrency address is used to receive and send transactions on the network. An address is most commonly represented as a string of alphanumeric characters and sometimes referred to as wallets. Addresses can also be represented as a scannable QR code. remains risky. Some currencies have collapsed when their development teams fell apart. People who put all their money into Pakcoin could get rich or lose everything.

Any new way of doing business opens up avenues for fraud, since most people don’t understand it in detail and can be tricked. If user names become a common way of designating wallets, spoofing of names will inevitably follow. Fraudulent exchanges will try to cheat people, taking money outright or misrepresenting market exchange rates.

The value of a cryptocurrencyA Cryptocurrency address is used to receive and send transactions on the network. An address is most commonly represented as a string of alphanumeric characters and sometimes referred to as wallets. Addresses can also be represented as a scannable QR code. comes from its usefulness in exchange, and every organization that accepts payment in it adds to its legitimacy and stability. In some parts of the world, such as Pakistan, more people have cell phones than have bank accounts. CryptocurrencyA Cryptocurrency address is used to receive and send transactions on the network. An address is most commonly represented as a string of alphanumeric characters and sometimes referred to as wallets. Addresses can also be represented as a scannable QR code. payments stand a reasonable chance of being widely adopted, since they’re a more accessible option for a large part of the population.

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Abid Hospital is small and new, but it might be the start of a trend. As more organizations adopt digital currency as a payment option, it will become more familiar, and the currency will stabilize. There are still many ways the scenario could go wrong, but it’s a trend worth watching.

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Brennan B.
Brennan B.
Brennan is a blockchain technical adviser in the healthcare sector and blockchain entrepreneur who has worked on developing proprietary concepts for both artificial intelligence and blockchain applications. He is a graduate of Rutgers University School of Health Professions where he earned a M.S. in biomedical informatics.
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