How Web3 and the metaverse are changing healthcare


We are seeing a disruption in Web3 innovation across numerous industries, healthcare included.
Getty Images

Right now, we’re seeing a seismic shift towards decentralised technology, coined Web3. Similar to when the internet came along, many might not yet understand how Web3 works, yet the opportunities that this “third wave” of the internet could deliver is predicted to surpass any digital innovation experienced in the past 20 years. With the rise in the utilisation of blockchain technology and its ability to create decentralised systems, we are seeing a disruption in Web3 innovation across numerous industries, healthcare included.


Blockchain technology provides a decentralised, transparent, and immutable system for recording information within an ecosystem. Although the first mainstream application of blockchain technology was with cryptocurrency, we are seeing applications in other industries facilitating faster contracting, payments, auditing, transparency and accountability of supply chains, and enhanced data security in closed networks.

In healthcare, an exciting application of blockchain technology is addressing the issue of counterfeit medicines. Using blockchain technology, patients and healthcare professionals can verify the quality of the medicines they are administering, as they will be able to see through the blockchain ledger (which cannot be edited) where the original compounds were sourced, where it was manufactured and packaged, its cold chain storage history and its remaining shelf life. If the medicine ever needs to be recalled due to contamination issues, the ability to identify the issue in the supply chain and notify all impacted individuals will become efficient and effective. 

In healthcare, an exciting application of blockchain technology is addressing the issue of counterfeit medicines.

Another example of Web3 innovation in healthcare is securing patient data through the development of Zero-Knowledge Proof systems. This provides the patient the ability to prove who they are to a healthcare institution yet without revealing any sensitive information. Solutions are also being developed to aid in interoperability, enabling a patient to share information with multiple healthcare institutions, yet still selecting who and what healthcare data they share. This will provide additional security, as their data will not be subject to large scale cyberattacks of organisations, where millions of individuals’ data can be leaked en masse, as recently experienced by MediBank. The onus of data protection and sharing, however, will lie with the individual, which poses its own risk.

We are also seeing blockchain technology being implemented in the contracting space, with agreements such as patient informed consent in clinical trials being stored on the ledger of a closed system to allow easy auditing and ensure clinical trials are being run according to good clinical practice guidelines.

The opportunity to provide transparency and privacy within the healthcare system is a huge opportunity for vendors working in this market and streamlining processes that have been previously inefficient.

Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs)

One of the most exciting utilisations of Web3 in healthcare is that blockchain technology will also empower people and patients by giving them the opportunity to join DAOs, such as a decentralised clinical trial or population health research study, where their data is anonymised yet still contributes to the analysis of health research for the betterment of the community. Being transparent, immutable and democratic, members of healthcare DAOs will have the ability to decide how the data is analysed and shared and have the potential to increase societal trust in the findings and conclusions that are formed.

Getty Images
The metaverse

While the metaverse and immersive technologies aren’t necessarily an application of Web3, there is the potential to utilise decentralised components, such as cryptocurrency (e.g. Ethereum) or non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to create a decentralised virtual world. Since the metaverse gained headlines a year ago when Facebook changed its name to Meta, there has been a wave of startups developing various applications of immersive technology, including the retail, gaming, education and learning categories. However, there is also a real potential for innovation in healthcare, including the creation of digital twins, virtual hospitals, telehealth, training, patient engagement, global patient communities and education.

Virtual care, as an example, will allow care to be provided to patients in different geographical areas. Imagine enabling surgeons to prepare for challenging surgeries using 3D simulations and digital twins. Or being able to perform procedures on patients in hospitals from the other side of the world with the use of robotics. Or monitoring patients virtually in 3D to aid in their rehabilitation. Virtual care has the potential to close the health inequality gap due to challenges that come with geographical location, particularly for those who live in rural or remote areas, or patients in developing countries with minimal access to healthcare.

Despite the FDA recently releasing a guidance on XR in healthcare, there is still some cynicism around immersive technologies in this space, with a recent CB Insights panel labelling this transformation as a fad and the least likely of the innovations in healthcare to have staying power. Bloomberg recently reported that Apple’s’ Reality Pro’ VR headset will be delayed due to development issues, with a release predicted in the second half of 2023. Microsoft has also recently undergone cuts to their AltspaceVR, Mixed Reality Tool Kit (MRTK) and HoloLens teams, which could be interpreted as a lack of confidence in the feasibility and desirability of the metaverse, or it could just be due to cuts to innovation budgets where the return on investment is not yet guaranteed, due to the current economic headwinds.

With so much development in Web3 and immersive technologies in healthcare, it is an exciting time for the healthcare industry and, more importantly, for patients and individuals, as we move towards a more transparent, secure, efficient, immersive, democratic, and trusted healthcare system. 

Dr Sophia Moscovis is a scientist with a PhD in Immunology and more than 10 years’ experience in digital transformation, digital health solutions, strategy and innovation in commercial and medical roles.