The internet is being reimagined, and healthcare enterprises need to be ready for what comes next. Metaverse and Web3 innovations are transforming the underpinning and operation of the virtual world. Instead of the internet as a disparate collection of sites and apps, the metaverse is a 3D environment in which moving from work to a social platform can be as seamless as walking from one’s car right into the doctor’s office.
Internet of place – A new experience layer
Although the metaverse offers an exciting new world to explore, it’s not just a place for gaming or entertainment. More than 80% of healthcare leaders see the metaverse having a positive impact on the future. In the metaverse, we can transcend time and space to simulate interactions, shorten learning cycles and practice procedures, such as in surgical training. We can create distinct experiences for patients that replicate the physical world but remove its constraints. We can help healthcare employees build empathy around the human experience of people aging or of people with historically underserved needs by virtually living in other people’s shoes.2
Internet of ownership – A new distributed data layer
Underpinning this new experience layer is a new distributed data layer. Web3 provides additional texture to this new world by introducing a data framework that generates provenance, veracity and value. By creating a new distributed layer to the internet, individual users have a more intelligent and connected web experience where they can share digital assets, and trade or sell their data based on clear ownership rights and authenticity. The underlying data framework is what supports a range of capabilities from “owning” a pair of digital shoes to authenticating identity and more, while remaining secure.
Building a responsible metaverse
Interestingly, while the metaverse can re-represent the existing world, we are still the same people living in it. Those who cannot see, cannot see. Those who cannot hear, cannot hear. Those who do not have digital health access today may experience a widening gap. The exciting part of this new realm is that we can set up new guardrails that are impossible in the physical world. Bottom line: The metaverse needs to be accessible for all kinds of people, regardless of their sensing capabilities, access to technology and beyond.
Instead of the internet as a disparate collection of sites and apps, the metaverse is a 3D environment in which moving from work to a social platform can be as seamless as walking from one’s car right into the doctor’s office.
The analysis: Converging on our digital healthcare future
We can think about these evolutions as taking place on two fronts: The metaverse as a re-platforming of digital experiences to provide boundless places where people can meet and interact and Web3 as reinventing how data can be owned by individuals and moves through that system. For healthcare executives hoping to join the ranks of those that shape the next internet revolution, it starts with taking steps to understand these evolutions.
The greatest value of both metaverse and Web3 in healthcare will depend on the ways in which the two converge with one another. These combined forces have the power to eliminate the distrust, friction and fragmentation patients and healthcare workers experience as they cross platforms, care settings and work environments. The virtual care and office experiences that we’ve seen accelerate over the past two years can become more “real.” But healthcare, perhaps more than any other industry, needs an underlying data foundation that guarantees trust, safety and optionality for all involved.
of healthcare executives say the metaverse will have a positive impact on their organizations, with nearly half believing it will be breakthrough or transformational.
Things to look out for: Pressing forward without turning back
The metaverse presents a variety of potential challenges—from providing equitable access to technology to keeping patient data secure to ensuring the safety of patients as they explore care in new realms on their own terms and on their own time. As we enter this new era, it will be critical to have the right governance in place to ensure that enthusiasm for the potential on the horizon should not come at the expense of caution and care for the human at the center of the experience.
Applying new thinking in the metaverse must include tackling top health equity priorities such as reducing health outcome disparities among patient populations, understanding social determinants of health, and improving the attitude, behavior, biases and approach of providers and support staff.
Actions to take: Leading tomorrow’s internet
These are areas that healthcare leaders should focus on to be ready:
Build new strategies today, exploring the potential of new products and services and training their people on the technologies that will soon be foundational. Healthcare strategies need to consider how location-agnostic care, user-owned data and blurred boundaries between physical and digital will be incorporated into long-term planning.
If we want to represent the real world in a digital way, we need the foundational social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies—and data—to build that world. This is not just about EMR data, it’s the full spectrum of data that represents people, physical items and activity.
Healthcare leaders can start identifying the metaverse and Web3 skills and capabilities they will need. Creating metaverse experiences may require 3D artists, game designers and experts on the platforms on which they plan to build.
Today’s efforts around metaverse and Web3 are creating the next version of the internet. These two momentous technology shifts are simultaneously working to eliminate the friction and distrust that exists between today’s many digital platforms and to reinvent digital experiences and how data is owned, moves and is used across those experiences. And in the process, they are changing the future of care delivery, financing, and ways of working in the enterprise by forming new means of interaction between healthcare providers, payers and patients.
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