Blockchain might have started out as a ledger system for Bitcoin, but many industries have recognized its applications as a system for secure and efficient data management. Lawyers who represent startups, such as HG attorney Aaron Kelly, report an increasing interest in blockchain technology among clients.
Outside the finance sector, companies use cryptocurrencies as tools to achieve other goals. For example, freight coin is a token which suppliers and carriers can use as collateral when they enter into contracts. In other industries like healthcare, tokens can be a powerful incentive. Here are three reasons why the blockchain and cryptocurrency spell good news for your wellbeing.
1. Food safety and supply chain transparency
You know you need the healthy fats in avocados and the antioxidants in blueberries, but you’re also aware blueberry season is months away, and avocado trees don’t exactly flourish in your frigid backyard. You’re lucky enough to find these items at the grocery store all year round, but you can’t help wondering if produce that’s changed hands countless times and traveled thousands of miles is safe to eat.
Your fears are not unfounded. According to the FDA, 48 million cases of foodborne illness occur annually, which leads to 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Food poisoning often comes from unlikely sources; in 2011, 33 people died from a listeria outbreak before the CDC traced the illness to cantaloupe exposed to the bacteria at a packing facility. In the time it takes to trace the contaminated product to its source and determine what other products to recall, many more people may fall ill.
Blockchain is the key to keeping track of items at every stage of the supply chain to ensure quality control. In the event of foodborne illness, it can help identify the source quickly to get the contaminated products off the shelf and prevent future outbreaks. IBM’s blockchain platform allowed Walmart to trace a shipment of mangoes from a store back to a farm in Central America in two seconds. Apps like Foodtrax use the same technology to verify whether the products you are buying are really organic, local, free-range, or gluten-free.
2. Patient information accessibility and empowerment
“Eighty percent of heart disease, stroke, diabetes are preventable, and forty percent of all cancers,” says Dr. Samir Damani, founder of MintHealth, in a speech at the Connected Health Conference. “These are not diseases that are going to be fixed by antibiotics or vaccines, these are behavioral conditions that need to move patients from passive to empowered and proactive. The only way to do that is by giving them access to data.”
Accessing your own medical information is easier said than done. Your doctor’s office might have your file full of test results, but you don’t fully understand what the numbers mean, and you have to jump through hoops just to get a copy of it. If you see multiple specialists, each one might only have fragments of your medical record.
With so many communication barriers, chronic disease prevention is particularly challenging. Your doctor might make recommendations during your appointment, but then you’re on your own for six months. You might make some changes to your diet and exercise more, but your doctor isn’t around to tell you if you’re on the right track. It’s hard not to fall back into old habits, and you could find yourself skipping the gym and ordering pizza far too often.
Blockchain puts information back into the hands of the patient. With platforms like BurstIQ, you can access your complete medical records from any smartphone or computer, and whenever a physician adds something to your chart, the update appears in real time, so all of your healthcare providers are on the same page.
Apps like MintHealth empower patients to make sustainable lifestyle changes by providing education, social support, and tools for self-tracking and goal setting. When you’re unsure of what to make for dinner, look up an article on low-calorie foods. If you’re wondering if you’re exercising enough, check your biometric data to see how many calories you’ve burned. On days when you’re feeling discouraged, exchange text messages with a health coach or network with others who are using the same program.
The best part of these platforms is the rewards. For every step you take to improve your health, you’ll earn cryptocurrency tokens you can use to pay for insurance, prescriptions, gym memberships, or health products you purchase online. By cashing in on the short-term rewards, you’ll be motivated to stay on track to reap the long-term benefits. The data you collect about yourself could also be valuable for medical research. Apps like Medicalchain create a blockchain marketplace where you can sell your information to labs and pharmaceutical companies.
3. Information sharing and medical breakthroughs
If you had cancer or a dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection, you’d want the world’s best scientists working together to find a cure. Unfortunately, many labs and institutions work in isolation, treating their data as a commodity. Forbes reports the leading cancer research centers have the most up-to-date information on cancer treatment but only treat a small percentage of patients, which means most cancer patients don’t benefit from their data.
Companies like Nano Vision are taking the blockchain health model to the next level. The platform uses cryptocurrency tokens as an incentive for researchers to share their information on the blockchain, and their Nano Sense Chips collect real-time molecular data from all over the world. With the use of AI and machine learning, the system is able to process data at high speed and identify trends and patterns in datasets that human researchers might miss. Influencive points out that even when studies fail, their data are useful to other scientists, so they won’t waste time on experiments others have already tried unsuccessfully.
Do you think blockchain and cryptocurrencies would help you stay in shape? Share your thoughts in the comments.