There has been much written and spoken about metaverse and its potential to revolutionize gaming, entertainment, socializing, work and commerce. There are more and more industries joining metverse to take the advantage and grow faster. Healthcare industry has also been another field that metaverse impact could be transformational.
Many ask the question if metaverse could help healthcare industry further development. To answer the question, it is necessary to learn about the nature of metaverse and its potentials. It is already agreed that metaverse is effectively the next version of the internet. Metaverse takes advantage of artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and ever-increasing connectivity (for example, 5G networks) to create online environments that are more immersive, experiential and interactive than what we experience today.
The convergence of three major technological trends, namely AI, AR and VR, provide the potential to impact healthcare industry. Therefore, metaverse could create entirely new channels for delivering care that have the potential to lower costs and improve healthcare outcomes.
In the following, we aim to present the possible impact of metaverse on healthcare industry.
The impact of metaverse on Healthcare industry
The metaverse can provide a more immersive, intimate, appealing medical experience which changes our view of healthcare. Adaptive intelligent solutions can help improve the connection between hospitals and patients, improving access to healthcare services and enhancing overall patient satisfaction.
Metaverse creates new opportunities for healthcare providers to interact with patients in more intimate ways, such as using a three-dimensional model of the human body with patients, discussing diagnoses and treatments, simulating the effect of a proposed treatment on the patient’s body, creating a more personal and informative experience in comparison to the two-dimensional images on a screen we use today.
In the health metaverse, healthcare professionals will be able to deliver more collaborative treatment programs using features such as telepresence (allowing people to be together virtually, even while we’re apart physically), digital twinning, and blockchain (and its ability to let us create a distributed internet). Let’s discuss them in details.
During the Covid-19, telemedicine was used as a service to provide remote treatment to patients. In this type of consultations, no physical examination is required and doctors and nurses were able to more quickly and efficiently diagnose many of the minor physical conditions via a telephone or video call. Now, the same practice has seen in metaverse. Virtual reality used in metaverse has provided a whole new range of possibilities in diagnosing the health issues of patients.
Therefore, telemedicine consultations through VR lowers the necessity of being treated by particular clinicians in a physical location. Scans and tests can also be carried out at a facility local to you, and the data transferred to the specialist around the world.
A digital twin is a virtual model designed to accurately reflect physical objects or processes. It provides a virtual model to simulate any object, process, or system that is generated using real-world data. It allows learning more about real-world counterparts of a person or a system, which can be a patient in the health metaverse.
Digital twining allows users to predict everything from recovering from a surgery to specific medicines a patient need. This directly stem from the ability to map and understand individual genetics.
Blockchains are distributed and encrypted databases that allow data to be stored and transferred securely so that only the data owner can make changes to it. Blockchains are also an important part of metaverse as they allow for decentralized communities governed democratically via smart contracts, as well as a record of digital “ownership” of environments or even objects in the digital domain.
In healthcare, blockchains are mostly used in the management and security of valuable health data. The decentralized data storage secures the data from manipulations and hacking, as well as providing the safe and instant access to data for healthcare specialists.
The convergence of these core technologies in the metaverse allows healthcare professionals to provide more accurate diagnosis, treatment programs and packages to patients. The healthcare metaverse also provides easier monitoring of patient activity, which in turn further assist with diagnosing and treating illness.
What does the future hold for metaverse in healthcare?
The metaverse has been affecting almost all sectors and healthcare industry will also take the advantage in the upcoming years. At the time of writing, some pharma companies are using immersive technologies in their practices. Roche Italy, for example, uses MR to present therapies by pneumo-oncologists using Microsoft’s HoloLens and from a 3D model of a patient’s chest. The healthcare metaverse allows reproducing scan images taken at different moments of the disease; therefore, healthcare professional can visualize them in sequence and follow their evolution according to the clinical choices made.
There are a lot of facilities that metaverse can provide to healthcare industry. Though these concepts are new, the metaverse is bringing possibilities that were never previously imagined. In the following, we will review some of these:
Healthcare education using metaverse
The metaverse can mainly influence healthcare industry’s ability to collaborate across continents to problem-solve and share training in a virtual environment. Hospitals and healthcare spaces are already created in the metaverse and can be used to provide a wide range of training services to the healthcare system.
In this regard, some pharma companies have already conducted workshops with HCPs in the metaverse. Using the latest virtual technologies, participants could learn from the most experienced experts in virtual spaces at lower price and less waste of time while they were totally focused on the topics.
Hands-on and immersive trainings
Using the immersive technologies, simulation-based clinical trainings can be applied in the metaverse to train HCPs in surgical procedures, use of medical devices and other primary care services while no patient is hurt.
Also, the metaverse could be used with training modules that help researchers and scientists as well as HCPs and patients learn about the latest knowledge on sicknesses. As an example, MSD used the metaverse to create a new educational world on Periodic Odyssey in November 2021. Young people were asked to explore, search, and find elements of the periodic table in exchange for in-game rewards. Young people found themselves more interested in science and innovation after the course.
Drug development efficiency
As mentioned above, using digital twins by metaverse reduces the cost and time required to run reliable clinical trials. The metaverse may also be used as a Digital Therapeutics (DTx) to provide well customized health services since, due to its design, it is flexible to fit patient’s needs.
Metaverse can also be used to create virtual reality hospital environments through using a headset. It leads to treatments even in counseling and physiotherapy services. As an example, physiotherapy can use computer vision via cameras to investigate the range of motion in damaged joints and patients’ recovery. Latus Healthcare is a leader in this field.
Top 3 healthcare companies active in metaverse
1. Latus Healthcare is comprising a virtual reality hospital environment mainly focusing on consultation and physiotherapy services.
2. iMining is about to launch the first virtual hospital in the Decentraland Metaverse.
3. Apollo Hospitals has announced its collaboration with 8chili Inc to engage in healthcare metaverse.
A final word
It’s clear that metaverse will affect many aspects of healthcare delivery by offering unique opportunities to the industry. Thanks to telepresence of treatments during Covid-19, people can easily understand the concept of metaverse healthcare and trust it.
On the other hand, metaverse has brought extraordinary new opportunities to the healthcare sector. Therefore, pharma companies seem motivated to apply metaverse at this early innovation phase, and learn about value it has to their work. The already existing technologies such as VR and AR also have proved to be helpful to healthcare metaverse.
It seems like that, like any other industry, healthcare industry is also finding its place in metaverse, though it might not be as fast as others.
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