Patients hitting their health targets could reap rewards in cryptocurrencies believes Charlotte Lewis, associate in the commercial healthcare team at international law firm Hill Dickinson.

Using Blockchain and FinTech such as cryptocurrency to help the public take control of their own healthcare could also reduce the strain on services.

“There was an NHS campaign where if smokers could quit and stay off it for period of time they got a voucher,” Lewis told BusinessCloud.

“It’s not a huge leap to see how cryptocurrency could incentivise patients to take responsibility for their own healthcare.

“For example, if my Apple Watch was linked to my health record and I hit my steps each day I get a coin and that builds up. I could use it to upgrade my bedroom next time I’m an inpatient – there would be a way to make that money flow back around the system.”

Cryptocurrency and its underlying Blockchain technology could also make patients safer, and help protect health practitioners from expensive lawsuits.

“Blockchain provides you with really robust evidence,” said Lewis.

“It’s a trust scenario which comes up a lot in consent cases where the patient say ‘I was never told that’ and the doctor say ‘well it’s written in the records’, and a patient might insist someone’s written it in later.

“It might seem farfetched but it’s a very real issue. In America it’s used because they’re far more litigious than this country so there’s more investment in it because they can cut their claims.”

The technology could also help with the issue of making patient records available and easily accessible to all the people who need it says Hill Dickinson partner Sarah Brook. This could help deliver life-saving care as fast as possible.

“The theory is that no matter where you’re taken ill in the country someone can access accurate data about what’s wrong with you and what you need,” she said.

“From a patient record perspective that was always the dream. Historically we use different IT systems and big programmes across the NHS but this does it in a different way that doesn’t rely on lots of different systems working with each other.

“It could be a huge step change in the way that patient data and records are used and made available but you can still do it in a way that’s secure and theoretically controllable by the patient themselves.”

There are issues that need to be worked out before this can become a reality though, says Lewis.

Medical records need to be confidential but the nature of Blockchain relies on a number of people being able to view the data. This is how the technology assures transparency and accuracy.

“Blockchain is supposed to increase security but that’s done by greater transparency because it has to be verified by a large number of people,” she said.

“The only way to make it better is to have a bigger pool of computers as part of the chain but then how does that sit with people and with GDPR?

“Also with information stored in cloud-based systems, how do you erase it because on the Blockchain you can’t erase it, that’s the point.

“There are lots of questions about making this fit in with data protection.”