It’s become quite clear that the blockchain is going to be a very useful technology in the healthcare system. Often thought of as the truly impactful aspect of the emergence of Bitcoin, the blockchain allows for simplified record-keeping, transactions, and communication – and it may well be that we’re only just scratching the surface of its utility. In healthcare and elsewhere, people have been coming up with fascinating and useful twists on the blockchain for the last few years, and there’s no indication that innovation is slowing down. The possibilities are endless.
Healthcare costs and you health savings account
But while the blockchain is undeniably useful in this industry, can the currency for which it was initially developed serve any purpose? Can Bitcoins be useful in relation to healthcare?
This may sound like an odd question, given how significant healthcare costs are, and how formal the payments tend to be. At first thought, it may seem like an industry in which Bitcoin usage just isn’t necessary or practical. That said, however, we have seen the leading cryptocurrency making its way into a few industries specifically with regard to making payments safely and securely.
The first example that comes to mind is PayPal, which has partnered with a popular Bitcoin exchange to allow users to sell Bitcoin and cash out to their PayPal accounts. That basically means they can finance PayPal accounts through Bitcoin, partnering two types of digital transaction that exist for purposes of safety and security. PayPal is essentially meant to be a mode of online payment for which personal information does not need to be provided in individual transactions; Bitcoin is meant to be entirely anonymous, and therefore entirely safe. The partnership essentially compounds the feelings of security that Bitcoin and PayPal users typically feel.
The second example actually involves the same two services, but specifically relates to online gaming. It is perhaps no surprise to hear that online casino platforms started accepting PayPal as a deposit and withdrawal method some time ago (for the same reasons of safety and security mentioned above). Going by the first example that means that some could be using Bitcoin to funnel money into these kinds of deposits. But we’ve also begun to see some similar platforms accepting Bitcoin payments directly – as a safe, efficient, and reliable means of payment.
Clearly, a pattern is beginning to emerge. While Bitcoin is also useful for a lot of more casual purchases, such as those at online retail shops, some of the biggest adoptions of its use have been in industries where financial security is paramount. This could certainly be applied to healthcare, not because anonymity is particularly important, but because payments need to be made on time, and can be steep in nature.
Paying for medicine and treatments, particularly when they may not be fully covered by insurance, can be a very significant hurdle. And complications, either with payments or with procuring treatment, can be devastating. The idea of having a reliable, digital means of paying for these things, in addition to a blockchain that records the transaction indisputably, will undoubtedly appeal to many patients. For that matter, it may benefit hospitals and pharmacies as well, as it could conceivably cut down on issues in which patients or those close to them may attempt to abuse prescriptions and get more than they should.
It could also become easy and normal for people with Health Savings Accounts to fund those accounts via Bitcoin. We’ve already seen articles about adding Bitcoins to retirement funds, and the higher the price of the cryptocurrency soars, the more valuable this idea becomes. Now, an HSA doesn’t work the same way, in that it’s meant to be used rather than saved. But account values do tend to roll over from one year to the next, and some may like the idea of funding these accounts with Bitcoins in the hopes that they’ll appreciate, and thus lessen the need for further payments the next year.
To be clear, these practices – buying medication or funding HSA accounts via Bitcoin – are not normal or even necessarily possible yet. But the way we’ve seen Bitcoin adopted in other industries in which safety, security, and reliability are particularly important, it will be interesting to see if the cryptocurrency can take hold in healthcare.
Subscribe to stay up to date with the latest blockchain innovation in healthcare.
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 enterprise blockchain. He is a graduate of Rutgers University School of Health Professions where he earned a M.S. in biomedical informatics.