The technology could help patients exert control over their medical data
One such possible application could be attaching NFTs to medical data.
Ethicists say the technology holds immense potential to reshape patients' control over their medical information and let people track biological samples taken from their bodies.
For patients, owning an NFT of their medical data would be like creating a kind of sentry to guard that personal information.
Marielle Gross, who studies technology and women's health care at the University of Pittsburgh, wants to extend the use of NFTs even further, to cover biospecimens such as tumors that are physically removed from patients or organoids created with a patient's tissue.
Not everyone sees NFTs as a viable option for tracking medical data.
There needs to be more research about why some people prefer not to share their data-and whether they actually want the kind of fine-grained control over their medical information or biospecimens that NFTs allow.
For another, Kostick-Quenet notes, NFTs alone are not enough to protect databases of personal medical information.
For some medical data, no amount of technology can protect patient privacy.
Finally, there needs to be a lot of public education about what NFTs are and how they work before patients can give informed consent, Gross says.
Proponents of NFTs are hopeful that the technology could finally give patients transparency into, and some control over, the afterlife of their data.