With Bitcoin’s continued advancement as both a payment network and currency unit, growing numbers of health clinics are looking to integrate the technology into their business practice. One such example is Helvetic Dental Clinics in Budapest, Hungary. In January, this medical tourism-style clinic announced that it would be accepting bitcoin for dental treatments this year.

Says Pierre Chaker, founder of the clinics: “Since we began, we have gone to extraordinary lengths to facilitate payment options for our international patients and, since the beginning, have accepted most major currencies.”  

Adds co-founder Jean-François Empain: “Not only will we save money by taking transactions out of the hands of credit card companies, but we’ll also preserve patient privacy as those organizations will be able to legally access certain protected health information for the purposes of verifying the transactions.”

This move is indicative of the growing recognition around Bitcoin’s value in facilitating payments, offering greater efficiencies, cost effectiveness and security for both businesses and consumers. According to the aforementioned co-founders, Bitcoin helps Helvetic Clinics establish a competitive advantage through its distinction as the first dental clinic in Hungary to offer it as a payment option.

As an ISO 9001 certified dental clinic, Helvetic possesses state-of-the-art technology which includes an in-house dental laboratory. Following strict protocol guidelines established in Switzerland, it was rated as one of the top dental centers in Budapest, appraised by Global Clinic Rating, Best Dental Clinic worldwide among 130,000 dental facilities in 2015 and 2016.

U.S. based healthcare consultant and blockchain researcher Brennan Bennett weighed in on Helvetic’s initiative, saying that it’s a good first step in digital adoption for the clinic around the adoption of Bitcoin. He asserts that it represents a fork in the road in terms of blockchain adoption, namely, that there are two paths in play here – payment adoption from a borderless currency and data governance backed by blockchain in a medical sector.

Says Bennett, who is the founder of Blockchain Healthcare Review, an online forum that examines technical innovation in blockchain technology and how it is reshaping the future of health information technology (HIT) data governance: “Helvetic’s payment adoption move is wonderful to see, and more than anything is indicative of the massive amount of venture capital being poured into Bitcoin payment solutions.”  

He cites the efforts on the part of BitPay, an industry leader in Bitcoin payment adoption, in raising $30M in venture-backed capital back in 2014. Furthermore, he says, a quick peek at the dentist category on SpendBitcoins.com shows a total of 52 registered dentists worldwide that accept bitcoin as an official payment method. “While it’s clear that places in Europe readily adopt Bitcoin faster than in the states, I am surprised to see dentist offices in the U.S. from New York, to Kansas to California adopting the currency as well for payment.”

Bennett asserts that dental data governance is not just a subsection of broader medical coding- it’s an entire coding system in of itself. This, he says, actually could be a good thing relative to blockchain when you think of efforts to increase the education of patients and health consumers through medical data.

“Generally speaking, the only medical professionals that would need to access historical dental records would be other dentists, unless the procedure at hand includes broader surgery to the face or worst case, identity management in terms of the authorities needing to identify a body. Point is, a patient-mediated blockchain system for dentistry could grow rapidly as its own use case being a segmented medical profession, unlike oncology for example.”

Bennett says that because the dental claim’s coding process is already available to be mapped, the most impactful dental blockchain use cases would involve building a provider network, where each provider has a client protocol enabling them to append patient data to the global file of the patient itself.

“From a business perspective, this would provide immediate claims coverage if connected to a payor blockchain network and would ideally provide a clear audit record in the event of a claims dispute.

He concludes: “From a broader medical perspective, fields like dentistry represent an opportunity for quick wins in terms of trend analysis (i.e. smart contracts providing medical insight for preventative care) because again, it’s such a concentrated field of study. It will be exciting to see how all of this evolves over the next few years.”