Like so many industries today, the medical sector is seeing increasing global engagement. Patients aren’t just limited to the health and dental care that’s available on their doorstep. Medical facilities can effectively connect to consumers from across the planet. This has created a thriving medical tourism market.
It should come as no surprise that greater freedom of choice in healthcare is being supported by decentralized currency solutions. More than ever before, patients and facilities are using Bitcoin, in particular, for treatment payments.
Let’s look a little closer at this trend.
Facilitating Access To Wellness
One of the key challenges facing patients today is a lack of healthcare access in their home country. In some instances, communities have a shortage of physicians, while for others quality care isn’t particularly affordable. This isn’t just about primary care doctors or surgeries, either. The state of oral healthcare in the U.S. is also fraught with accessibility issues. A lack of dental insurance, rising costs of relatively basic treatments, and care inequality are among the contributors to poor oral health outcomes. This doesn’t just disrupt dental wellness, either. Oral unwellness can have knock-on effects on other areas of health.
The challenges at home mean many Americans are seeking treatment elsewhere in the world. Countries such as Thailand and Mexico are common targets for good-quality healthcare that is more affordable. Nevertheless, the different currencies in these areas can result in either administrative complications, additional transfer costs, or conversion fees. This is one of the reasons some international medical providers have begun to integrate Bitcoin technology.
It means that Bitcoin can be a tool for breaking down some of the barriers to affordable care. Using this decentralized currency tends to mean that patients aren’t hit with unnecessary conversion fees from their banks or credit card providers. Therefore, they can lower the costs of their overall care even further. Bitcoin’s prominence in the crypto market may also mean it is likely to be the specific coin care providers accept now and in the future.
Maintaining Security And Privacy
Global medical care has a unique set of challenges. Perhaps the primary among these is how healthcare providers can effectively manage risks. Like many industries, solid hazard mitigation practices boost reputation and improve efficiency. Most importantly, though, a focus on maintaining security and privacy protocols reduces both facility and patient exposure to breaches. Bitcoin may be a component of these efforts.
One of the privacy and security risks in traditional international transactions is that there’s a very direct digital paper trail to patients’ financial and personal data. When breaches occur, criminals may have access to not just financial information but also link it to medical records. Patients also can’t always guarantee the same level of regulatory standards of data protection abroad as they would at home.
Bitcoin, on the other hand, offers built-in security and privacy protocols. Firstly, it’s traded and stored on blockchain systems. This tends to make it particularly difficult for cybercriminals to gain access to the ledger and pull coins or — importantly — sensitive information from it.
Additionally, the decentralized nature of Bitcoin means transactions can be anonymized to some extent. This means patients can reduce the potential for Bitcoin transactions to be traced to them and their medical data. That said, maintaining anonymity requires effective protocols. For instance, patients could use IP address hiding tools during transactions. They could also agree with medical providers to utilize pseudonyms for transactions.
Linking Investment To Payments
One of the often overlooked components of Bitcoin concerning global healthcare is its built-in investment protocols. When patients use their credit or debit cards to pay for their treatment abroad, this currency doesn’t necessarily benefit from potential value rises. Sure, funds in medical savings accounts may accrue interest over time. Yet, this may well still be negatively affected by the aforementioned currency conversion fees when it comes time to pay for services abroad.
Bitcoin, on the other hand, is inherently subject to crypto market fluctuations. It can be volatile, of course. Yet, sometimes this can work in favor of investors.
For instance, patients can track the cryptocurrency markets and use forecasting tools to make predictions about purchasing coins at their lowest value. They can then plan elective treatments abroad for when currency values are expected to rise again. As a result, they may get the most medical treatment out of their investments.
Similarly, healthcare providers abroad can keep Bitcoin payments in dedicated wallets rather than withdrawing immediately. With a responsible approach to market tracking and forecasting, they can use rises in value to reinvest in their businesses. This could empower them to make improvements to their facilities. They could also have more funds to put toward marketing tactics. For instance, arranging comprehensive health tourism trip packages that have become popular among dental tourism patients.
That said, both patients and care providers should be extremely mindful of the significant risks this reliance on Bitcoin presents. On the patient's side, it’s rarely wise to put all the eggs in one basket, particularly when it comes to saving for medical care. It can be better to diversify with other forms of more traditional health insurance and health savings. It’s also good to consider limiting Bitcoin-driven medical tourism only to non-essential electives. This prevents the potential for wellness to be too heavily influenced by the crypto markets.
Bitcoin is being accepted by more healthcare providers worldwide. This doesn’t just offer convenience and security benefits. It may also help some patients to afford more treatments they wouldn’t otherwise have access to in the U.S. It’s vital to recognize, though, that this is not a watertight solution to healthcare access. As with any Bitcoin investment, its use by patients and facilities alike must be based on informed decision-making. With a responsible approach, though, there is potential for this currency to be a useful tool in a wider healthcare strategy.
This is a guest post by Miles Oliver. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.