01 Jun How will the metaverse affect the healthcare industry?
The next generation of the internet is on the horizon – the metaverse. Led by tech giants such as Facebook owner Meta, experts believe that an integrated network of 3D virtual worlds will completely transform the way we go online. The vision is for fully immersive, experiential online environments, accessed by virtual reality (VR) technology.
But how will the metaverse affect healthcare?
Thought leaders in a wide range of different industries are starting to get excited about the endless possibilities of the metaverse.
Healthcare is no different, as the metaverse presents a number of opportunities for lowering care costs, improving patient outcomes and bolstering patient data security.
Writing in a recent Forbes article here’s what futurist and strategic technology advisor Bernard Marr believes the metaverse will mean for the health sector.
The rise of telemedicine
This is no new trend, as the Covid-19 crisis necessitated a surge in phone and video call consultations between doctors and patients. Before the pandemic, only around 43% of doctor’s surgeries were able to offer remote treatment. This has risen to a huge 95%.
In the metaverse, virtual reality is expected to open up a whole new range of treatment options. Using VR technology, the experience of actually being in a healthcare facility, face-to-face with a medical professional, can be replicated.
But this can be done at a fraction of the cost, and with almost no geographical limitations. Patients can be virtually treated by doctors anywhere in the world. This will be particularly valuable for patients in need of specialist treatment, where experts at the top of their profession practice in a different country.
Bringing together a number of technologies within online environments can also help to join the dots in treatment pathways. Many current healthcare systems are siloed, which means patients often have to go to different facilities for diagnosis, treatment and aftercare.
The metaverse could introduce swifter information sharing, and joined-up programs and packages of treatments. This means patients could be treated far quicker and more effectively.
Jack Latus, the CEO of online healthcare provider Latus Healthcare, believes that the virtual hospital will have an important place in the future of healthcare. In fact, it’s a concept that Latus Healthcare is actively working on – it could even be available in just a year.
It involves creating a virtual hospital environment, which does away with stressful waiting rooms and long waiting times. Patients can be assessed using augmented and virtual reality technology, which can make use of computer vision to more accurately assess things like injuries. Latus explains how it works:
“With VR and AR, we’re able to give them much better feedback on their process … for example someone with a shoulder joint issue, if that shoulder range of motion improves by three percent, as an individual, you probably wouldn’t feel that.
“But if you can get it reported back to you, you will actually see it working, and get a plan … if you improve at this rate, you can get back to normal in a certain number of weeks.”
Managing health data
A final but critically important implication for healthcare in the metaverse is data security. Health data is highly valuable, but it’s not always stored or shared securely. One of the main security risks is that data is stored on centralised servers, where it could potentially be stolen.
The metaverse is expected to be run on blockchain, a decentralised system. These encrypted databases allow safe data storage and transfer, and no one but the data owner can tamper with them. This could mean a major leap forward in the way we securely manage health data.
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