Reimagining healthcare experiences in the metaverse
- Posted on November 14, 2022
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
This article was originally published in Hospital and Healthcare.
As the metaverse shifts from hype to reality, organisations and individuals are excited to experiment with these cutting-edge technologies. From gaming to entertainment and even governments are claiming their stake in the metaverse. Gartner predicts that – by 2026, one in four people will spend at least an hour a day in the metaverse. Powered by emerging technologies such as digital twins and edge computing, almost one in three organisations will have metaverse-ready products and services.
As the metaverse matures, the new technology is already reimagining how essential services like healthcare operate. While still in its nascent stage, it could potentially redefine how healthcare services are delivered to patients. Especially in Australia, the strain on healthcare has never been more evident.
The federal health minister declared that primary care is “in worse shape than it’s been in the entire Medicare era” and has made it his top priority. The metaverse holds the potential to be the game changer we need to alleviate the national healthcare crisis. This convergence of technologies is giving rise to a new environment where the industry can accelerate learning, create collaborative experiences, and connect from anywhere.
Transforming the patient experience
People today are savvy consumers of digital content and social media. Can we leverage familiarity with digital technologies to enable the population to take control of their health, without compromising the quality of care? The short answer? Yes.
Patient interactions with their doctors will always be the hallmark of patient care and should remain so in the metaverse. Through technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), we can improve patient health experience and outcomes, as well as employee experiences in the metaverse. In fact, 81 percent of healthcare executives expect the metaverse to have a positive impact on the industry.
By traversing physical and digital spaces, the metaverse allows for collaboration and exchange of value through shared interactions and experiences. Firstly, it creates a community. Not only can patients check in with loved ones virtually, but it also connects them to fellow patients experiencing similar health conditions. Secondly, the gamification aspect that the metaverse lends can significantly increase patient and employee motivation to grow their knowledge and engagement.
More importantly, the metaverse creates a sense of presence. With what Microsoft refers to as ‘holoportation’, patients are projected as holograms in front of their healthcare provider. This enables interaction and even allows doctors to make diagnoses as if the patient was physically in the room. Not to mention, in the metaverse, the digital twin could even be the patient themselves. From understanding individual reactions to medication to predicting recovery from surgery, the possibilities are endless. The technology could prove to be critical in managing patient expectations on health outcomes, pain management, and patient satisfaction as they’re able to easily interact with their doctors.
Enhance learning with experiential education
The medical profession is constantly evolving and leveraging new technologies to deliver advanced healthcare services to patients. We’re seeing breakthroughs every single day, and in most recent memory, the breakneck speed that Covid-19 vaccines were developed and rolled out.
The opportunities that the metaverse presents for the delivery of healthcare are immense. The metaverse also unlocks a powerful platform that can be used to train clinicians, patients, and families regardless of their location. The learning experience can be made more captivating with the ability to create a virtual human body and participate in real-life simulations with 360° full-scale views, which can help doctors prep for surgery. The enhanced learning experience can improve interactions and aids the retention of knowledge and the development of key skills.
As collaborations between healthcare providers and third-party companies increase, the metaverse can serve as a conduit and shorten the time needed for essential, lifesaving innovation to reach the masses.
Healthcare from anywhere
The metaverse will redefine remote operations – with opportunities for humans-in-the-loop to work from anywhere and continue to collaborate with their colleagues or chat with their patients. On top of that, there is the ability to connect with key people in the patient journey – from care teams to peers and of course, the patient – from anywhere.
Providers can create an entire network of healthcare professionals across disciplines to provide advice on different health conditions. Patients would be able to walk into virtual clinics to receive medical attention or even participate in hybrid clinical trials. Similarly, a patient with disabilities will be able to meet their doctor with ease from the comfort of their home.
While there are still a few hurdles that we’ll need to overcome before we can harness the potential of the metaverse, it is becoming increasingly clear that this needs to be the future of healthcare. As we learned from the pandemic, being able to connect from anywhere, globally, will be crucial. By making the world a “smaller” place, we can exchange best practices, solutions, and innovations that are saving lives across the world.