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Metaverse and the Healthcare Industry

The metaverse is going to change the world. What’s the metaverse? It’s the digitalization of everything. What’s everything? All processes and physical objects in healthcare; finance and investing; art and entertainment; construction; chemicals; utilities; retail; energy; and information technology.

It’s Web 3.0.

Early Web 1.0 was static limited to reading content. Web 2.0 was interactive with social media and collaboration. Metaverse Web 3.0 is decentralization and democratization.

We may be entering the fifth industrial revolution. The first began during the late 1700s with steam-generated machines. The second was in the late 1800s with electricity, gas, and oil. Then, in the mid-1900s, television and computers were developed. The late 1900s saw automated decentralized factories, artificial intelligence (AI) machine learning, and internet-of-things (IoT). Now, the metaverse is changing the physical world into digitalization and 3-D imagery.

Consider “texting” as a context of where we are with the metaverse. Texting was introduced as a new life-changing event several years ago. People were extremely skeptical and negative about the implications and hyped-up impact in our lives. Why add this to the mobile phone? Who’s going to use this? It’s useless. Initially, texting was developed to replace phone conversations; however, in the end, no one predicted how this product was going to be used. Two things happened.

First, now everyone on the planet is texting, and people can’t live without it. Second, texting has nothing to do with the phone. It’s about connecting people: “I’ll be there in 10 minutes.” “Could you pick up something at the store?” The metaverse is going to be the same way. People are now negative about the concept and saying it’s a waste of time and resources. However, it’s going to be global and used by everyone, everywhere in the world. It’s happening fast and will create trillion-dollar companies.

The metaverse is at its nascent emerging stage and is today used for video games and investing through non-fungible tokens (NFTs). For example, Upland is a real estate metaverse site. Sign in and search for real estate in New York, San Francisco, or elsewhere. Click the icon for purchase. There are thousands of properties at base prices and resale prices paid with the UPX token that can be converted to USD and transferred to your financial institution.

There are 60K+ users every day, and thus far, one individual has purchased $1 million worth of property. These are massive numbers for a 12-month-old site. Today, buying a home in the non-metaverse world requires weeks and months of research and looking, rejected offers, repairs and remodeling, paying large commissions, legal representation, title search and confirmation, mortgage loans, and signing 30+ documents. The metaverse has decentralized and democratized the process to one click, and blockchain technology has added advanced security, traceability, and immutability.

Currently, the risk is massive. First, there is a technical risk from an overnight irreversible crash to the dreaded blockchain “hard fork,” although technology is continually improving. Second, there is economic risk based on the principle of too much supply with no demand. For example, with real estate or art NFTs, people will disengage and go to the next popular metaverse site leaving users with a total loss of their investment.

Third, what I call, “misguided digitalization” risk which means trying to exactly replicate real-world applications which can be catastrophic. For example, electronic medical records were first designed 50 years ago in 1972, and designers were obsessed with the exact copying of the doctor, nurse, and hospital paper records, the better the match, the better the product. This has resulted in an enormous tragedy costing up to $300 billion, multiple layers of governmental regulations, inefficient medical care, decreased patient interaction and quality of care, and tremendous caregiver frustration with physician and nursing burn-out. There is too much information, inappropriate lists of requirements, and meaningless recommendations.

Over time, these problems have not been resolved. The opposite has occurred, each iteration of the EMR has made the situation worse costing $billions and further deteriorating patient care. The metaverse digital medical twin with individual medical data ownership and self-directed data sharing may be a better option.

Process and product digitalization has been going on for many years and is so common that people don’t think about it. This has improved speed, efficiency, accuracy, and saved money. These include keyless entry, home voice-activated Alexa, 3-D printing, machine learning, internet-of-things (IoT), cloud computing, and industrial robotics.

In healthcare, examples include medical and surgical robots; virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) for learning and training; health and medical wearables; and artificial intelligence (AI) for health and disease monitoring and x-ray interpretation.

Telemedicine has been a catalyst for the healthcare metaverse with online physician visits and consultation, and e-pharmacy medications. The augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) metaverse is going to expand this further by developing more advanced remote medical care, learning, and performing tasks virtually.

Self-directed healthcare is now a reality through the metaverse. For example, individuals can generate verifiable digital Covid-19 vaccination record certification. Unlike printed documents from a health record, these credentials are verifiable and signed using cryptography through blockchain technology. The person reviewing the document can confirm the verification source requiring no intermediary or institutional ownership. Furthermore, individuals own their health information and can share as they wish with no payment or time for electronic transfer.

The receiver can verify that the information is from the patient and not from an institution or a provider. This self-directed health credentialing has happened fast and is very successful as this has been used by more than 60 million Americans and even more users throughout Europe.

During 2021, there were 40 new digital blockchain crypto $1billion companies that included healthcare companies such as Aldedade with an e-health platform; Alto Pharmacy is an e-health pharmacy; HeartFlow using AI ultrasound; Tempus using cloud-based AI for personalized healthcare, Innovaccer health cloud platform patient information across the continuum of care; and ATAI Life Sciences as a biopharma company using a decentralized platform for developing mental health treatments. Blockchain technology has enabled creation of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO) which are governed by online communities rather than corporate board of directors.

The metaverse is unfolding at a rapid pace for improving our lives and revolutionizing healthcare for a better world.

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By: Dr. Gary Epler / Boston CDI Global

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