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Research: Use of non-fungible tokens in the management of health data

Digital transformation in healthcare has been catalysed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the accelerated adoption of digital health solutions such as telemedicine, remote monitoring and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). This caused a surge in the generation and flow of health data, which is expected to continue as healthcare providers and patients grow more accustomed to digital solutions, and as healthcare systems begin to integrate emerging technologies to tackle the challenges of the future.

With this increase in digital health data, a team of clinician innovators from SingHealth anticipate a growing need for privacy-preserving solutions to empower patients to take greater ownership of their health and to enhance the applications of data for medical research and clinical care purposes. In a recently published editorial piece in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine 1, the team explored the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as a potential data management solution to bridge this gap and revolutionise data exchange in healthcare.

The use of blockchain technology to tokenise health data will enable patients to own their personal health data and exchange it as digital assets with multiple stakeholders, such as healthcare providers, using the same blockchain technology. Each patient can own, store and share their health data in the form of NFTs using a health wallet hosted on a secure web-based or smartphone application, making this mode of data management easily accessible, yet secure and private. Exploring the potential adoption of NFTs as a privacy-preserving technology in healthcare will require establishment of technological infrastructure and multiple stakeholder engagement. NFTs in healthcare have many exciting potential benefits and could revolutionise the management of health data in time to come. 

For more information, watch this video as Dr Teo Zhen Ling discusses on their research work (internet access required):

Proposed framework: Allow transfer of data between verified parties

1Teo, Z.L., Ting, D.S.W. Non-fungible tokens for the management of health data. Nat Med (2023).

Contributed by:

 Assoc Prof Daniel Ting
 Senior Consultant, Singapore National Eye Centre
 Director, Artificial Intelligence Office, SingHealth
 Head, AI and Digital Innovation, Singapore Eye Research Institute

Dr Teo Zhen Ling
Senior Resident, Singapore National Eye Centre
Singapore Eye Research Institute

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