Ask The Doctor, a Toronto-based startup providing medical consultations online, now accepts payments in the cryptocurrency.

According to the company, the innovation is aimed to protect patients’ anonymity. Paying for services with bitcoin, customers are not obliged to share sensitive information with third parties, such as banks or official medical services. The new option is currently available via the company’s website, mobile version to arrive soon.

“Many of our users ask extremely sensitive questions from teenage pregnancy to STD's to drug use that they are too afraid to go to their own doctor’s office to get help for. On top of that, many users don’t want their family members to know. While it does take some extra effort to have complete anonymity using Bitcoin, it’s certainly a large improvement over a credit card,” commented the head of the company Prakash Chand.

Ask The Doctor has been providing medical advisory since 2010 and the number of the processed inquiries has exceeded 5 mln. In September, in order to expand the clientele, the company started translating its medical library to foreign languages and added five alternative currencies to its basket.

It is noteworthy that another medical company, UnitedPharmacies online shop, has recently become cryptocurrency-friendly. The pharmacy offers a 10% discount for bitcoin customers.

The year 2016 has seen a variety of new options opening to apply the distributed register technology for medical purposes. On 3 October, Hyperledger announced the creation of a working group aiming to launch a viable decentralised system to exchange medical data. It will focus on discovery and exploration of healthcare-related blockchain use cases that address real-world problems and the ways to avoid overlapping with other existing solutions.

In April 2016 Accenture, a multinational consulting services company, presented a project of distributed time-stamping and blockchain tracking of drugs. According to the company’s lead software developer Primrose Mbanefo, if the project is implemented, it could help to raise quality control excluding from circulation not only illegally produced drugs but even those made by well-established companies that deviate from the originally approved formula.

Another medical project based on blockchain was presented in May by the UAE-based telecom provider du and Estonian company Guardtime. The partners plan to put all health records in the UAE in a distributed ledger. It is supposed to reduce paperwork, increase the security of health records and give medical professionals access to up-to-date patient data.

Lyudmila Brus