It seems that the metaverse is going to become our new, long-term reality for every aspect of life – including healthcare. In the first half of the two-part series, we delved into the prominent channels fueling the use of metaverse in healthcare. In this part, we will take a look at what the future holds for this revolutionary technology.
Read part 1 here: Metaverse: The next frontier for Healthcare 4.0
While metaverse in healthcare is still evolving, it no doubt provides fascinating possibilities, marrying technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), the internet of medical things (IoMT), Web 3.0, smart clouds, edges, and quantum computing along with robotics to deliver novel capabilities. Here’s a look at the four major ways its transforming healthcare.
Future implications for metaverse in healthcare
1. The rise of virtual hospitals
This consists of a virtual reality medical environment that can be accessed via a headset and focuses on counseling and physiotherapy services. Computer vision is used in physiotherapy, for example, to evaluate the range of motion in injured joints and the progress that patients are making toward recovery. For instance, Latus Healthcare (the UK), is actively creating a virtual hospital, which will be available as a service within the next 12 to 18 months.
On the other hand, Apollo Hospitals Group (India) has also recently announced a first-of-its-kind collaboration with 8chili Inc., to enter the metaverse through a virtual hospital environment. Pre- and post-operative virtual reality patient counseling in the metaverse will aid in improving patient outcomes by delivering generic environments filled with calming “narratives” that will induce control over one’s own body and physiological response.
It will also include users in virtual reality-mediated exercises to strengthen their emotional regulation abilities. This personalized approach to patients will help improve patient satisfaction as well as outcomes.
2. The gamification of healthcare
Gamification is most commonly used in health and wellness applications in the therapeutic areas of disease prevention, self-management, medication adherence, and telemedicine. The essence of healthcare gamification is patient-centric, as it strives to promote patient engagement by personalizing their experience.
The metaverse can further help this process by providing patients with a virtual immersive environment, where they can perform tasks and take part in challenges, and win a variety of badges as a reward. They can compete with themselves in certain healthcare applications by setting personal goals, but they can also compete against other patients in others. Patients are more motivated and involved in their healthcare activities when they compete in different challenges and achieve goals.
For example, Mango Health (the US), is a healthcare app that encourages patients to take their medications on time and rewards them with badges if they remain consistent. It also informs patients about the various adverse effects of drugs. The Happify platform (the US), on the other hand, provides users with science-based activities that help boost their emotional well-being.
3. AR/VR powered surgeries
AR, which has applications ranging from behavioral health support for patients to surgery and diagnostic imaging, has joined the ranks of advanced medical technologies that can leverage the metaverse. Likewise, AR/VR usage in healthcare is set to rise, with the market for these technologies expected to reach USD 16.2 billion by 2027.
AR/VR systems are being developed and utilized for activities that support diagnosis as well as pre-surgical preparation and training, in addition to their potential for usage in operating rooms. Immersive Touch (the US), for example, offers an AR/VR platform that works with specific diagnostic imaging data like CT and MRI scans.
Physicians can utilize the platform to study patient-specific anatomy and pathology in 3D, plan surgical approaches in an immersive virtual environment, and practice specific surgical procedures or medical device usage before operating on a patient. Another instance of this technology in action is the interactive virtual reality surgical platform EchoPixel (the US), which allows surgeons to identify the anatomy of interest and use the platform’s depth of information to enhance detailed medical images in real-time.
4. Enhanced medical education and training
The most significant advantage of the metaverse is that, unlike current one-way virtual schooling, it allows people to interact with one another while taking online practical medical courses. Instead of just knowledge transmission, it will also be used in medical education for simulation training.
Medical training that incorporates the metaverse will be more effective in areas that need advanced hand skills and interactions, requiring the use of additional technology. It will take a learner through an immersive environment to give them more insight into the human body and provide a 360-degree perspective of a patient’s disease or mimic real-world treatments.
MetaMedics VR (EU), for example, is a platform that is developing a 3D virtual environment in the metaverse, for medical training that allows doctors and nurses to train from anywhere. It is democratizing medical education by making a wide range of medical treatments and protocols available to medical students and practitioners across the world. Veyond Metaverse (the US) is another company that is bringing together healthcare specialists from around the world for concurrent education, training, and planning, as well as collaborative medical operations. It makes use of cutting-edge cloud and real-time communication technology to enable doctors to improve their skills.
Roadblocks on the path to metaverse integration in healthcare
- Patient protection and privacy guidelines
When it comes to harnessing the metaverse in healthcare, the biggest challenge is conforming to patient safety and privacy guidelines (such as the HIPAA guidelines). Industry players need to ensure that patients’ confidential information (including PHI/ePHI) is kept safe and secure. As telemedicine and mobile device integration have grown in popularity, policymakers will need to revise HIPAA regulations to account for the vast amount of data available in the metaverse.
- Cybersecurity concerns
With the rise in cyberattacks, another concern that arises is the security of patient data in the metaverse. Because cybercriminals frequently target healthcare institutions as a high-value and vulnerable market, merging the metaverse into healthcare creates a new set of problems to address. Furthermore, with larger amounts of patient data, privacy is always an issue. On a large scale, whether patients feel comfortable interacting in the metaverse needs to be seen; nonetheless, preliminary results seem promising.
- Higher cost of setting up procedures
To fully realize the metaverse’s potential in healthcare, significant infrastructure is required. Many physicians and hospitals may be unable to afford this technology due to the high-tech hardware (such as eyewear, sensors, and other wearables) and uninterrupted 5G access required to set it up.
- Interoperability issues
When it comes to developing technology, interoperability is a critical component of today’s healthcare framework – and one of the most difficult to achieve. Adding a new feature, such as the metaverse, might have significant and unforeseen consequences on devices that are easy to port between platforms and networks. The adoption of the metaverse will have to be gradual and may require updated data and communication standards for the healthcare industry.
The Metaverse is not just science fiction anymore and has become a part of the next generation of healthcare, or Healthcare 4.0. Overall, healthcare leaders need to embrace Metaverse and continue exploring ways in which it can be used to make healthcare safer, more inclusive, and accessible for everyone. We must wait and see how the healthcare industry will incorporate this virtual world in a secure and patient-centric manner, as technologies and patient needs continue to evolve.
Healthcare 4.0 is fast approaching– is your firm ready for the change? Netscribes’ healthcare insights solutions help organizations stay up-to-date with current and emerging technologies and trends. To know more, contact us today.