Metaverse in Healthcare: The Future is Now Leave a comment

by Samar Kagalwalla

In June 2020, neurosurgeons at Johns Hopkins performed the institution’s first augmented reality operations on living patients. The doctors used six screws to fuse three vertebrae in a patient’s spine to cure persistent back pain, using headsets by Israeli firm Augmedics. The latter uses a see-through eye display that projects images of the patient’s internal anatomy, such as bones and other tissue, based on CT scans, giving surgeons the much-needed X-ray vision. In another instance, the physicians removed a malignant tumour from a spine. According to the doctors, both patients are doing well.

These were a few of the early metaverse experiments in healthcare.

Closer home, healthcare major Apollo Hospital Group tied up with 8chili Inc, a California-based deep-tech start-up, to authorise patient involvement in the metaverse. It will facilitate pre/post-operation patient counselling via virtual reality (VR), increasing patient involvement and giving healthcare staff skill mastery for hands-on training.

Endless possibilities

This gives us a peek into the endless possibilities of metaverse reshaping the healthcare domain given the widespread adoption of AR/VR tech in architecture, manufacturing and supercomputing industries. It’s nascent with metaverse trends steered towards gaming and arts. But its role in transforming healthcare cannot be undermined as it combines Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Internet of Medical Devices, Web 3.0, intelligent cloud, edge and quantum computing, and robotics. Think telemedicine consultations through VR, patients attending virtual reality (VR) group therapy sessions, surgeons planning out procedures on anatomical holograms, or expectant mothers practising breastfeeding techniques in augmented reality (AR). These are reasons enough to be excited.

Moreover, COVID-19 has already accelerated it by conditioning the healthcare consumer to new habits like online delivery of medicines and online consultation.

Insurance in the virtual universe

Metaverse appears to rely on decentralisation technology, particularly those that let individuals freely move or sell their assets. Cryptocurrencies, NFTs (non-fungible tokens stored on a blockchain), and other virtual objects can be considered Metaverse assets. It is not unrealistic to believe that some insurers may develop cyber insurance to cover specific, non-physical losses within these categories and hackings, data theft, and network disruptions.

Simultaneously healthcare companies should venture to create a new business model aligned with patient health insurance, reimbursements and prescriptions in this new virtual universe.

Blockchain enabling transparency

Metaverse also represents blockchain technology that can solve healthcare problems regarding data security and health record management. Additionally, it will play a key role in protecting data privacy in this industry.

As a result, blockchain in healthcare has the potential to bring upon better care, increased transparency in payment and administration, and more protection for all trusted parties. For instance, when a transaction takes place in blockchain, it’s recorded, and cannot be altered. As per the ethos of Web3 Foundation, where users own their data, code for transparent payments will be accessible to everyone (who owns it). Insurance companies can use it to disclose their costs if needed.

Medical Education and metaverse

AR and VR are already transforming medical education and training, as well as processes and procedures, as AR has been in existence for a few years to train medical students for surgeries like blood clot removal, thereby giving them hands-on learning.

Meanwhile, VR allows them to virtually enter the human body, giving them a thorough perspective and allowing them to replicate natural treatments. More immersive experiences could be built for students based on actual surgery where they pretend to be surgeons themselves.

Brands leveraging healthcare

Digital-first health brands can cause a stir in the metaverse by bringing a more personalized, optimized approach to care. Healthcare businesses can integrate themselves into virtual metaverse environments to provide customized patient experiences to individuals where they are. Additionally, with the help of AR and VR technologies, brands can reach out to healthcare professionals across the world to give demos and training. With the same technology they can even make digital telehealth sessions more personalised and human.

But before that they need to identify the platforms and channels their customers are using, the support they are looking for and how the new technology serves an unmet need.

Despite the huge scope of metaverse in healthcare, there are constant challenges, particularly around people’s attitude to receiving treatment online and equality of access to VR devices (which aren’t cheap) like headsets.

The nascency of metaverse offers scope for digital-first healthcare providers to drive innovation and address the complex challenges of healthcare accessibility, affordability and improved outcomes for patients. That’s where the focus should be.

by Samar Kagalwalla, Head of Marketing and Growth, Onsurity

(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person / organisation directly or indirectly)


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