Bitcoin’s Role In Global Healthcare Access

https://bitcoinmagazine.com/markets/bitcoins-role-in-global-healthcare-access

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.

Conclusion

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.

Crypto Regulation And Compliance: Navigating The Evolving Regulatory Landscape For Bitcoin

https://bitcoinmagazine.com/legal/crypto-regulation-and-compliance-navigating-the-evolving-regulatory-landscape-for-bitcoin

Cryptocurrencies have been around for over a decade; yet, it’s only in recent years that the mainstream has recognized the full extent of their utility. Whether your business is using Bitcoin as a hedge against traditional currencies, trying to avoid the exorbitant fees charged by financial services institutions, or just looking for an efficient way to pay, there’s no question that its popularity and utility as an acceptable currency has skyrocketed.

However, with that popularity comes a greater need to protect your organization. You might have heard about bad actors (like Sam Bankman-Fried) using cryptocurrency to commit money laundering and fraud, or scammers leveraging the anonymity of crypto to make an easy buck. Though bad actors abound in every economic sphere, with crypto being a relatively new frontier, it’s crucial that you’re aware of and can recognize potential threats.

Likewise, with that popularity comes a greater level of scrutiny. Federal regulations for cryptocurrencies have changed, and failure to stay knowledgeable about how those regulations affect your transactions could put your organization at risk.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common hazards associated with using Bitcoin, teach you how to spot and avoid cryptocurrency scams, and make you aware of how regulations may affect how your organization uses Bitcoin.

Know The Nuances Of The Currency

Though using any kind of currency comes with some level of risk, Bitcoin is different from traditional currencies and comes with norms that you, employees, or customers may not grasp intuitively. If you’re thinking about using cryptocurrencies, there are a few key differences you should be aware of:

  • Price volatility: Because cryptocurrency’s value is not regulated by an external party, it’s largely determined to be worth whatever someone else is willing to pay for it.
  • Lack of federal protection: The downside of not having the federal government to regulate your funds is that they’re unlikely to provide protection if funds are lost. With Bitcoin, once the money is lost, it’s lost — a fact that has led some to take extreme measures to recover misplaced crypto.
  • Privacy on the blockchain: While cryptocurrency transactions are largely considered to be anonymous, some information is typically recorded publicly in the blockchain. Measures such as hard drive shredding can provide an extra layer of security in these instances, preventing bad actors from digitally tracing your transactions and accessing your organization’s sensitive data.

Keep in mind that in an industry as digitally-focused as Bitcoin, data is king. If you have any unsecured data that a cyber criminal could get ahold of, make sure it’s adequately protected before foraying into the blockchain. Failing to ensure adequate layers of security are in place puts you in danger of having your organization’s data exploited.

Avoid Scams And Protect Your Organization

What’s more, bad actors may attempt to use the anonymity associated with the blockchain to scam the unwary Bitcoin. However, scams targeting businesses typically attempt to use the same “tried and true” schemes over and over — a strategy that loses its potency when people can recognize their all-too-familiar patterns.

Some of the most common scam tactics your business may encounter include classic strategies like:

  • Phishing;
  • Robocalls;
  • Social engineering;
  • Malware.

In fact, concerns about scams and theft are a significant reason why some are calling for better anti-fraud regulation in crypto. Until regulations exist, however, one of the most effective ways to safeguard against these kinds of scams is to simply know what they look like — both in general and in the context of crypto scams specifically. If you and your employees know what to look out for, you’ll be less likely to fall for the scam and ensure you have the protection you need, given the relative lack of available legal protection.

Aligning With Regulations

As mentioned above, regulations for Bitcoin are beginning to change. Though this can be a concern for those unaware of those regulations, it’s also exciting for Bitcoin’s mainstream potential as a whole. Some governments are leveraging regulations as a weapon against Bitcoin’s potential, but others have advanced regulations to the point where they are comfortable using the currency to verify election results.

While the efficacy of and intent behind regulatory measures currently differs from country to country, the surging popularity of Bitcoin is encouraging the development of more positive international regulations.

In the U.S., it’s legal to both buy and sell cryptocurrencies, and the Biden administration has announced initiatives to support the legal use of crypto and to penalize bad actors. The concrete details of those initiatives remain murky, however, leaving it unlikely that federal regulations will directly impact your organization’s use of crypto at this time.

In the absence of coordinated federal oversight, cryptocurrency regulation instead varies from state to state. You can leverage sites like Bloomberg Law to see an aggregated summary of crypto laws for your state or territory, but we’ll quickly break down a few examples of what these laws look like.

  • New York requires Bitcoin purchasers and users to obtain a state-unique “BitLicense” before selling, buying, or using Bitcoin commercially.
  • Tennessee does not consider Bitcoin transactions “money transmission,” but requires a license when exchanging Bitcoin for fiat currency.
  • Florida considers all uses of Bitcoin subject to money transmitter laws, and thus requires licensure; however, license laws have been relaxed overall.
  • California has not decided whether to regulate Bitcoin use and currently has no laws in place to oversee individual or corporate transactions.

As you can see, cryptocurrency regulation is a nuanced, complex topic and regulations are always evolving on both the federal and state levels. Conducting research into how your state governs the use of currencies like Bitcoin will be necessary before using it at your organization, as you’ll want to ensure compliance with local laws.

Staying aligned with changing regulations, employing strategies to avoid scams and protect your data, and knowing the nuances of cryptocurrency exchanges will empower your organization to navigate this industry with confidence.

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.