Search online for breakthrough innovations in healthcare and the results will leave you marvelling at the potential of new treatments making headlines every day. From 3-D printed stem bone implants that use stem cells, robotic microsurgery platforms and digital apps to detect mental health disorders, medical miracles are being imagined and realised in labs, start-ups, and corporations at a breathless pace. The Metaverse rarely finds a mention in these lists.
Ironically, the real-life transformation of healthcare continues to lag woefully behind these novel possibilities. While this is partly due to the slow regulatory process for safe adoption, actual diffusion of healthcare innovation depends on efficiently training and skilling the army of existing doctors, nurses, paramedics, and technicians already on the frontlines. These professionals need continuous training on new tools for diagnostics, treatment, procedures, care, and counselling. While it is ideal to use experiential learning methods for these scenarios, the need to prevent patient harm is paramount. Healthcare situations deal with complex scenarios and human subjects, making it a high-risk environment for real-life skills practice.
Over the last few decades, simulation-based training has stepped in to recreate the environment where healthcare students and professionals can safely practice and learn a range of healthcare skills using simulation equipment from simple task trainers to high-fidelity manikins. These solutions can safely create patient scenarios – testing cognitive, psychomotor, and affective skills without inflicting any harm to real humans.
The Metaverse can very quickly multiply the power of simulation platforms by expanding the range of skills and scenarios in healthcare where safe, experiential, and cost-effective training can be delivered because of its threefold digital advantage.
Metaverse-based solutions are not limited by specialised hardware. Whether one is recreating patient scenarios in the emergency room or the operations theatre; new complications, new treatment options and new knowledge can be rapidly programmed into case libraries to practice and test skills without overhauling or reinvesting in hardware. While the initial investment in the apparatus looks daunting, it is expected to come down as the sector matures. But more importantly, the same hardware can be utilised for different types of training applications and new cases and scenarios.
Immediate, accurate and consistent feedback on psychomotor skills through detection sensors and analytics tools can dramatically improve the speed of learning and confidence in diverse areas from surgery to therapy. This is true for all simulation-based instructor less solutions which rely on accurate sensors and real-time auditory, visual, and haptic feedback. Such solutions for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation have been shown to increase learner confidence and revival rates. That means a real human value delivered in terms of tens of thousands of additional lives saved every year in emergency situations.
As the Metaverse expands the areas where experiential simulation-based training can be delivered, we can also dramatically reduce surgeon errors and lives lost on the operating theatre tables.
The rich scenarios that can be created in the Metaverse are immersive and engaging. Having a real-life-like feel of interaction with patients and team-mates, and handling virtual instruments and equipment that provide realistic feedback sharply improves learner focus. In comparison, traditional classroom-based learning is dry and distracting. Teamwork and interpersonal skills can also be rehearsed with more sophisticated applications – taking the scope beyond just psychomotor and cognitive skills.
Metaverse, with its current state of sophistication, is already adding rich solutions to surgical training in the virtual simulation environment. Expect to see a very rapidly expanding range of healthcare training applications being introduced in the market as new developments make this platform more powerful and engaging. Hospitals, Medical and Nursing Colleges that want to be leaders in quality of care and innovative treatment solutions should certainly consider the business case for the Metaverse.