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At a time when patients want convenient, inexpensive, uncomplicated healthcare, the Metaverse and Web3 are emerging breeding grounds for brands to cater directly to new expectations for the patient experience with the promise of greater privacy and personalization. While it may be years before we see these platforms become standard practice, healthcare decision makers have an opportunity to revolutionize patient centricity through more experiential, customized, and cost-effective care.

Technology disruption often comes with upfront risk, but early adopters may reap long-lasting benefits. Healthcare organizations specializing in everything from digital therapeutics and virtual care to telehealth and digital diagnostics can start planning today to prepare for these types of new interactive care environments. What’s more, brands can define how and where these innovations could impact healthcare altogether.

Defining Web3 and the Metaverse

The Metaverse is effectively the next version of the internet – one that will take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and ever-increasing connectivity to create online environments that are more immersive, experiential, and interactive. Experts note one important distinction to be the decentralization of patient data itself, with Web3 focused on individuals through open-source software, pivoting away from centralized companies.

While the Metaverse is still in its earliest stages, 74% of those familiar with it believe it is the future. A report from Market Research Future – Healthcare in the Metaverse – predicts that by 2030, the healthcare Metaverse market will grow by 48.3% CAGR at a value of $5.37 billion.

Implications for healthcare

Many who are studying the Metaverse are predicting a disruptive shift, providing better surgical precision, opening new channels of treatment, and lowering costs, while improving patient outcomes. Whether your business serves the needs of providers, payers, or patients, the Metaverse is emerging as an immersive technology with significant potential for optimizing patient care across the entire healthcare continuum.

Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, some aspects of Web3 are already supporting the patient experience, including digital therapeutics that can bridge the gap between the physical and digital. Look no further than the rapid adoption of telehealth, which now constitutes a sizeable percentage of visits. Providers, healthcare organizations, and patients alike are realizing the benefits of virtual healthcare. Many believe the Metaverse will likely take it a step further as patients demand improved access and healthcare organizations look for ways to streamline healthcare delivery.

Advancing the promise of connected care

Looking ahead, providers can anticipate new opportunities to deliver on the quadruple aim of healthcare – reducing costs, improving population health, enhancing the patient experience, and boosting staff well-being – and expect top-down and bottom-up pressure to tap the benefits of Web3 from payers and patients, respectively. We may see providers start interacting with the Metaverse from the very earliest stages of their training. For example, virtual patients can be simulated in the cloud, allowing them to train on difficult cases they would otherwise only experience on a live patient. Practicing physicians may also find their practice supplemented in many ways by Web3, with the rapid adoption of digital therapeutics where VR and AR technology in the Metaverse will enable applications such as cognitive therapy, support groups, psychiatric evaluations, rehabilitation, and physical therapy.

While there is still much to be determined – compensation for Metaverse-specific sessions; prescribing medications or treatments virtually – early research indicates unlimited possibilities for how providers can improve the patient experience and quality outcomes using the innovations found in the Metaverse.

For pharma, biotech, and digital therapeutics, experts including Rohit Gupta, vice president of analytics strategy and transformation at Beghou Consulting, predict Web3 will fuel innovation and efficiency in data sharing in ways that will help pharma companies and other vendors improve commercial insights and optimize their business. Using blockchain technology, Web3 could further democratize health data, disrupt the health insurance industry through decentralized autonomous organizations, and capture the full benefits of pharma.

What patients think

PAN Communications recently commissioned a consumer survey targeting 1,000 adults (18+) across the United States to determine perceptions of the Metaverse in the context of the healthcare experience. Forty percent of respondents believe it will have a positive impact on healthcare, with 58% indicating that clear communication with their physician would be enough incentive to try the Metaverse for their healthcare needs. Sixty-one percent of respondents are either somewhat or very comfortable with a provider using VR/AR for a medical procedure, signaling a growing interest in – and acceptance of – greater technology in a clinical setting.

Staying ahead of the curve  

Early adopters will have a clear advantage in defining the extent to which the Metaverse will transform the patient experience and healthcare delivery overall. For brands supporting innovation in digital health, now is the time to build brand awareness for products and services that will prepare stakeholders across the care continuum to embrace emerging technology made possible by Web3.

Authentic and strategic storytelling that uniquely addresses the nuances of the patient-provider relationship – using the channels and new frontiers presented by these very advancements – will move important conversations around how digital innovations stand to improve care delivery among audiences that matter most. Partnering with experts who have the depth of experience advising brands through market disruption, who can apply the right approaches, and create the best frameworks will help healthcare brands stay ahead of the curve and maximize their potential as we witness the modernization of care as we know it.

Stay ahead of the curve. For more, check out our latest whitepaper, Patient Connectivity 3.0: Delivering on Patient Experience Expectations in the Metaverse.