Healthcare is always a topical issue as countries around the world try to improve their systems while also looking after people needing care. We will all need healthcare in some shape or form in our lives and it is so important to see innovation in this space.
What are some of the issues in healthcare now?
Inequality in healthcare is evident in so many parts of the world. In the US 15.4% of uninsured adults are more likely to use the emergency room due to lack of access to other providers. Emergency room care can cost a lot and hospitals have to provide care even if the patients can’t afford it. This cost taken on by the hospital is then recouped in health insurance costs going up, which in turn results in more uninsured people who cannot afford their healthcare premium. Preventative healthcare and access to different types of care could alleviate a lot of this pressure and slow down this cycle.
This inequality is also evident in medical training. Medical training can be costly. In some countries such as the US this cost is borne by students meaning medical school is not realistically accessible to people from lower income households. This can lead to a lack of diversity in medical staff.
Once patients are in hospital what actually happens with their data can be unclear as DNA and RNA may be used in research or stored for future use. Some private genome sequencing companies sell DNA data leading us to ask who really owns DNA?
And before all this even finding information online about more sensitive topics can be hard to find as well as awkward as privacy is not guaranteed.
Luckily web3 is giving entrepreneurs and healthcare professionals the tools to solve some of these issues.
Metaverse healthcare applications to help provide more equality, transparency and privacy
1. A metaverse hospital accessible from all over the world
Thumbay group will be opening the world’s first metaverse hospital in 2022. This will be based in the United Arab Emirates but accessible from all over the world on the metaverse. Patients will use their metaverse avatar to consult with doctors. They will use advanced technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality.
Thumbay Group is also utilizing VR and AR to help patients who have been bedridden for over 6 months or paralysed see their homes again.
This project opens the door for similar projects potentially changing the healthcare landscape we know so well.
2. Virtual reality in medical training to reduce training costs
Training new doctors is a costly operation. This is for many reasons but part of this expense comes from the physical surgical practice and training. Using cadavers and other resources can be expensive and limited. .
Researchers are already looking into how we can use the metaverse to help with this. In Korea a research team developed a spinal surgery platform that applied augmented reality technology
3. 24/7 health monitoring by an AI programme to prevent disease before it happens
Eternity Life Clinics is creating an alternative reality for healthcare in real life. The project involves a number of stages aimed at improving health worldwide. Their mission statement is that they are dedicated to find the way of immortality and prolong human lives.
The group will be constructing high tech clinics and research centers around the world where they will work on finding immortality through healthcare.
Another part of their strategy to innovate healthcare is to provide the best healthcare worldwide by using wearable sensors to monitor health 24/7 with AI. Should the wearer need to go to hospital the staff can prepare for their arrival using the information from the wearable sensor.
Eternity Life Clinics is also doing research into bioprinting where they would 3D print organs to be used in organ transplants.
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Payment will be accepted in crypto currency, specifically a token that Eternity Life Clinics is creating. This will offer a cheaper alternative to paying in fiat.
4. More efficient clinical trials
Currently, efficiency issues in clinical trials can cost $600,000 - $8m dollars per day and can cause delays in bringing medication to market. These costs can significantly impact the price of medication.
Through the use of web3 technology Clintex is creating a software to help reduce these inefficiencies. Their software will predict the probability of issues that might slow down progress and give researchers the information they need early on to resolve these issues.
The software will also use blockchain technology to enable collaboration across the pharmaceutical industry to help bring the best solutions to the table.
5. Protect and control your own DNA
Do you own the rights to your DNA? Oddly enough the answer to that question is far from black and white. It depends on where you are in the world but even at a local level the answer might be a bit more complicated than you might like.
Commercial companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com are huge multimillion-dollar businesses that provide genome sequencing for individuals at a very low fiscal cost. However, it is estimated that this data is sold at least 200 times over. This is arguably a much higher cost.
For Daniel Uribe, founder of GenoBank.io, he started learning about the treatment of DNA when his son was diagnosed with a condition called Glanzmann's thrombasthenia. Diagnosis of this condition meant his son had to undergo medical testing. Daniel found that there was a lack of transparency around what would happen to his son’s DNA and it was impossible to actually access it.
He struggled to find answers as to whether his son’s DNA would be stored, used in research or shared. While trying to find the answers he realised the blockchain could provide a solution. GenoBank.io was born.
Users can store their personal DNA (or RNA) data in a digital wallet, just like a digital vault. They will have secure access to this data. This means that only the owner of the DNA or RNA can access and use this data. This also gives the owner the power to prevent a third party from using this data as it is already owned.
Another site helping people regain control of their DNA is EncrypGen. On EncrypGen people can upload their DNA and set their own prices for its use. Given that pharmaceutical companies spend millions buying buying DNA from sites like 23andMe this could be quite profitable. It also offers users of the site the transparency that is lacking in the current medical treatment of DNA as they can actually see how many times the DNA is being used.
6. Sexual health and information resources that are actually private and confidential
Physical health is only one part of our full health as humans. Another important part of this picture is sexuality and sexual health. Unfortunately sex and anything related is a taboo topic in many parts of the world. With this taboo come many secondary issues such as:
- lack of access to sex education
- lack of access to sexual resources
- people feeling sexually repressed with no outlet for their desires
- sex and sexual behaviour being used to blackmail people
While this attitude to sex might take a long time to change web3 can offer the tools to help and protect people in the meantime. Web3 and blockchain can be used to provide safer spaces online for people to learn and communicate about sex. The technology is there to ensure people’s privacy and anonymity is protected as they engage in this exploration online.
One website utilizing web3 technology to provide this safe space is PleazeMe. PleazeMe is an online platform with 7 rooms where people can learn more about their sexual desires anonymously. Users complete a survey about their sexual desires to ensure they are put into the right room to suit their needs but they can visit other rooms too to learn more.
Creator Heather Montgomery said “I wanted to solve the conundrum of wanting to learn more, do more research, find out more about myself – but in a safe place.”