What’s up for blockchain and healthcare in 2022?
A beneficial side effect of the pandemic has been the acceleration of innovation in healthcare. There are myriad ways that blockchain is being used in healthcare.
Beyond the obvious applications in telehealth, supply chain, payments, secure data sharing, and remote monitoring are essential innovations in DeFi and Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) that allow people to exchange value on a decentralised network.
The next healthcare frontier is the metaverse, which combines DeFi, NFTs, decentralised governance, decentralised cloud services, and self-sovereign identity and can enable the exchange of physical, economic, and content assets.
There are already companies working on creating metaverse platforms geared towards healthcare. For healthcare, the giant leap will be the creation of a comprehensive meta health ecosystem. Key elements of that system will be collaborative working, education, clinical care, data monetisation, and gamification.
The Covid-19 pandemic threw into sharp relief the lack of virtual, secure, collaboration spaces that facilitate research and scientific discovery. These spaces require secure data sharing, privacy protection, patient authorisation, and identity and consent systems, all possible with blockchain. The metaverse will facilitate such collaboration, where 3D avatars of scientists can work together with digital whiteboards, and digital workstations, and can meet face-to-face without complex conferencing equipment.
The metaverse provides a space where digital twin technology can link the physical and the digital world, precisely mapping a virtual model of a physical thing. Ingrid Vasiliu-Feltes predicts institutions will use blockchain-powered digital twins to optimise medical education and medical training, as well as enhance patient safety and patient privacy. Digital twins can test machines, systems, and procedures to detect possible failures and improvements before carrying them out in a physical environment.
Digital twins will transform clinical processes through advanced modelling of the human body and hospital management through digital tracking. Samia Rizk predicts we will test new hospital processes by creating a digital copy, such as in-patient flow, then applying advanced analytics and running millions of scenarios to identify causes and test different interventions before using them.
As Wendy Charles points out, we will see a greater emphasis on secure data sharing and more use and acceptance of consumer-grade sensors and wearable data in home-based health care monitoring and health-related research.
The metaverse will use technologies based on AR and VR will transform medical education and training. VR can take learners inside the human body, providing a 360° view of conditions or replicating real-world procedures. AR can give students hands-on learning, such as simulating patient encounters and allowing medical students to visualise and practice new techniques; students can even experience the surgery as if they were the surgeon themselves. The metaverse will transform education into an immersive experience where learning is fun, success is rewarded, and data analytics target precision learning.
There is immense scope for the metaverse to be used in clinical care. Using immersive experiences recreated from surgery, real-time guidance can be provided in the surgeon’s field of view. The metaverse will allow simultaneous education, training and planning, and collaborative medical procedures. Avatars will be created for more realistic consultations, personalized care, treatment, and diagnosis through data interconnectivity.
Veyond Metaverse is creating a future healthcare metaverse ecosystem. It offers ways to improve education training and brings global healthcare professionals together for simultaneous education, training and planning, and collaborative medical procedures. The company aims to “empower clinicians to practice their skills with the utmost precision to ensure everyone receives the best healthcare delivery anytime and anywhere”.
Monetisation and gamification
The demand for data, and the ability to monetise data, will lead to the development of health data marketplaces that connect health data to medical researchers to accelerate scientific discovery. This will enable data owners to create passive income from data sets and provide high-quality anonymous medical data to researchers and tech companies. Health data marketplaces will be interconnected, interoperable, accessible in real-time, and allow information to be shared easily between all stakeholders.
Several start-ups are already creating these health data marketplaces. Segmed has a combined mission to monetise data and curate data sets for researchers. Health Bank aims to return ownership and control of data through blockchain-enabled tools and enable people to own and monetise their health data assets.
The future of precision medicine will generate growth in demand for genetic data and create opportunities for monetisation.Encryption is creating a platform that would increase the amount of genetic data available for research while increasing privacy, security, and ownership of data for individuals and allowing them to monetise their data. Nebula Genomics is building a genetic database, eliminating expensive intermediaries and incentivising users to sell their encrypted genetic data safely. Doc.ai enables people to share their medical and genomic data with scientists that use the data for predictive modelling.
Meskó and Dhunnoo predict that NFTs will disrupt the digital health landscape by giving patients control over their medical information. For example, genetic data minted as NFTs, would allow both the tracking of data and earn money whenever a transaction occurs.
Gamification will connect healthcare providers and patients, especially wellness and fitness. In “move-to-earn”, players are incentivised to be active. Genopets use data tracked by smartphones or fitness wearables to advance the Genopet NFT in-game. Players are rewarded for being active.
New income streams are being created using blockchain and GameFi – ‘play-to-earn,’ ‘learn-to-earn,’ and ‘move-to-earn’ could become a primary income for millions of people. New platforms that create ways to “learn-to-earn” can be integrated into healthcare for wellness, community collaboration, or medical education.
We have long been aware that the healthcare system is unsustainable, with the pressure of long-term, chronic disease, rising costs, aging populations, insufficient health workforce, and limited resources. Blockchain and Web3 will help create new models that move health care from the hospital to the living room, and the metaverse.
There are no doubt risks, but the opportunities are immense. Our knowledge grows with the innovators who are building these new healthcare metaverses. It is time to lean in and see the possibilities.
I’m off to Arab Health to see what’s new for blockchain and healthcare, and I’ll be sure to let you know!