CEO at Relevant

Metaverse in Healthcare: How Will It Reshape the Industry?

August 4, 2023


Has the Metaverse caught your attention yet? If not, now is the perfect moment to dive in. The Metaverse, set to grow into an $800 billion industry by 2024, is the next big thing on the Internet that will splash all sectors, especially intelligent healthcare.

Don’t be fooled, though; the Metaverse isn’t another gaming innovation or the newest fad in virtual reality. It’s a fundamental shift from conventional web browsing to an engaging, participative platform that breathes life into our physical reality, presenting it as a fully digital journey. 

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Often seen as conservative, the healthcare sector is surprisingly optimistic about the Metaverse. According to Accenture’s Digital Health Technology Vision report, a staggering 81% of global healthcare leaders see the Metaverse’s impact on the healthcare market as positive—some even venture as far as to call it “transformative” or a “breakthrough.”

But what does stepping into the “healthcare Metaverse” really mean? How will this trend in digital health alter our experience from the reception desk to the operating table and all the stages in between? And more importantly, are we prepared for a Metaverse in healthcare?

What is the Metaverse? An Overview

If the term “metaverse” strikes you as the stuff of science fiction, let us reassure you it’s as real as the device in your hand. This emerging concept defines an integrated virtual realm composed of several interlaced realities — augmented, virtual, and real. The metaverse is a vivid mix of the tangible and the digital, generating a unified space for individuals to connect, work, learn, and interact in real-time, regardless of geographic location. This engagement isn’t confined to a single medium; it spans diverse devices, including VR headsets, AR glasses, smartphones, and conventional computers.

Within the Metaverse, you break free from the restrictions of being a mere Internet user — you become an active player. You can traverse new dimensions, partake in thrilling events, and actively mold your surroundings. The metaverse propels you beyond the static screens, transporting you into a dynamic, immersive, 3D universe.

Metaverse in Healthcare

Technologies Driving the Metaverse

The Metaverse isn’t a mere figment of our imagination; it’s a sophisticated synthesis of several progressive technologies combined to create a reality greater than the sum of its parts. Let’s delve into these tech catalysts that are central to the dawn of the Metaverse in healthcare.

  • Virtual Reality (VR): VR in healthcare goes beyond gaming and entertainment. It can mimic complex surgical procedures for training purposes or conjure calming environments for patients undergoing high-stress treatments. 
  • Augmented Reality (AR): Bridging the gap between physical and digital, AR enriches our experiences by overlaying digital elements onto our physical world. Imagine visualizing patient anatomy during complex surgeries or offering interactive educational materials to patients — all possible through AR.
  • Blockchain: While VR and AR shape the experiential aspect of the Metaverse, blockchain undergirds its foundational structure. For healthcare, it could mean the secure exchange of patient records, traceable and transparent transactions, and patient ownership and control of personal health data.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): It brings a level of autonomy and personalization to the Metaverse. In healthcare, AI coupled with machine learning algorithms can analyze patient data for predictive diagnostics or create customized treatment plans within the Metaverse.
  • Digital Twins: This technology can simulate patient conditions, test treatment approaches, and even predict potential health issues. Integrating digital twins into the healthcare metaverse can revolutionize clinical trials, patient monitoring, and preventative healthcare.
  • IoMT: Metaverse medicine is grounded in the Internet of Medical Things with a network of medical devices, Web 3.0, smart cloud, edge computing, and robotics.
Healthcare metaverse

Potential Benefits of Metaverse in Healthcare

With the open door for the metaverse in the healthcare industry, let’s delve into some potential benefits that hold immense transformative power.

Enhanced Access to Healthcare Services

The metaverse will bring unprecedented convenience by overcoming geographical and logistical barriers. For instance, rural patients, or those with mobility issues, can consult their doctors virtually from the comfort of their homes. This technology could mimic Mayo Clinic’s virtual care model, offering teleconsultations to over 20,000 patients annually.

Improved Patient Education and Engagement

Immersive VR platforms can enhance patient education, facilitating a better understanding of complex procedures or conditions. An example of this is the CardioSmart Heart Explorer app, which allows users to explore hearts in 3D, helping them better understand their condition.

Personalized Care and Treatment

Healthcare in metaverse can be more personalized by using AI-powered predictive analytics for treatment plans, similar to how Tempus Labs uses AI to provide cancer care. A virtual consultation could integrate real-time health data for precise assessments and tailored interventions.

Collaboration and Training for Healthcare Professionals

Training in the metaverse can provide healthcare professionals with a safe, controlled environment to learn and hone their skills. This mirrors the collaborative work between Oxford Medical Simulation and NHS England, where VR trains healthcare workers in diagnosing and managing diabetic emergencies, offering hands-on learning without risking patient safety.

Metaverse applications in healthcare

Top Metaverse Healthcare Use Cases

The metaverse applications in healthcare open up new perspectives by offering innovative solutions to challenges that have existed for ages. Let’s explore some metaverse use cases in healthcare, which illustrate the amazing possibilities of healthcare in the Metaverse.

Telehealth 2.0

Think of the Metaverse as the next level of telehealth, shattering the limitations of traditional telemedicine. Within the Metaverse, medical practitioners can examine patients virtually, enabling diagnosis of health conditions without physical boundaries.

Metaverse-facilitated telehealth visits break down geographical barriers, connecting patients to specialists across the globe. Imagine patients in the U.S. could access care from Australia, all with a simple headset. This is a good opportunity for places struggling with access to healthcare professionals or areas grappling with healthcare accessibility.

Virtual Hospitals

Welcome to the age of virtual hospitals, courtesy of the Metaverse. Hospital walls are giving way to virtual spaces, providing 24/7 healthcare services, regardless of location. Technologies allow for remote consultations, diagnostics, and treatments, delivering seamless healthcare experiences in your living room.

A New Approach to Surgical Training

The Metaverse is demolishing geographical barriers, opening up unmatched opportunities for remote surgical training. Medical students and surgeons can hone their skills by practicing intricate surgical procedures in an immersive, zero-risk environment. Mistakes become stepping stones, not obstacles, making the learning process efficient and effective.

Immersive Medical Education

Gone are the days of monotonous chalk-and-talk teaching methods in medical education. The Metaverse introduces learners to intricate biological structures and processes through lifelike 3D models and simulations. This dynamic learning method boosts understanding, retention, and practical application of knowledge, setting up future healthcare professionals for success.

VR Therapy Sessions

The Metaverse offers immersive VR therapy, constructing highly controlled, adaptable environments to mimic situations that might be stressful or challenging in the real world. For those wrestling with anxiety disorders, phobias, or PTSD, VR therapy offers a safe space for gradual exposure therapy, helping patients develop coping mechanisms in a secure, supportive setting.

DirectionApplication in Healthcare Metaverse
Mental Health and Neurological TreatmentsUtilize immersive VR environments for cognitive behavioral therapies and neurological disorder management
Blockchain for Scoring and Sharing Healthcare DataSet up a secure, transparent framework for the storage and exchange of medical records and healthcare information
Medical Training and EducationIntroduce VR/AR simulations to instruct medical students and refine the skills of healthcare professionals in a safe environment
Medical Procedure AssistanceUtilize AR/VR technology to navigate surgical procedures, thereby enhancing precision and patient results
Physical Therapy and RehabilitationEmploy VR simulations to bolster the rehabilitation process by improving patient participation and adherence
Supply Chain Applications and Blockchain Ecosystem for PaymentsEstablish an efficient, trackable system for healthcare payments and supply chain governance
AR/VR Infrastructure for BiotechApply AR/VR tools to visualize complex biological structures, supporting research and advancement in the biotech sector
Vision Diagnostics and Eye TrackingMerge AR/VR with eye-tracking technology to diagnose and manage vision disorders efficiently

These use cases demonstrate the limitless potential of the metaverse and healthcare in redefining the care experience. Yet, the successful integration of these technologies hinges on their acceptance by the people they aim to serve. 

Metaverse Challenges and Open Issues 

Despite progressive technological trends in digital healthcare industry, which have efficiently embraced remote patient monitoring through advanced telemedicine techniques, integrating the Metaverse presents both opportunity and difficulty. We have created a table briefly describing the main ones and possible solutions.

ChallengesDescriptionPotential SolutionsFuture Directions
Cybersecurity RisksThe digital data from various gadgets are exposed to potential hackers during communication.1. Use of hardware and software capable of detecting risks or attacks.2. Strict communication rules within the Metaverse network.3. Adoption of Zero Trust Policy.Cybersecurity protocols such as network slicing with ring-fencing. Adoption of Lightweight Blockchain technology.
Privacy RisksModern technologies like XR, AI, and IoT expose user-sensitive data, increasing privacy breaches.1. Implement application-layer encryption to ensure privacy throughout the data cycle. 2. Adapt privacy frameworks for user and developer data control. 3. Utilize privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) to blur sensitive data.Adoption of Federated learning techniques for enhanced data privacy.
Communication ChallengesEstablishing proper communication among heterogeneous devices in the Metaverse is challenging.1. Design an Auction-based Deep Reinforcement Learning system to improve communication efficiency. 2. Implement incentive-based mechanisms in Blockchain technology.Adoption of 6G networks and service models for efficient Metaverse services in healthcare.
Computational ChallengesAI-enabled solutions require massive computational capabilities.1. Design optimized, efficient AI Models. 2. Deploy AI at the Edge.Lightweight AI models for better prediction and reduced computational needs. Adoption of Explainable AI (XAI).
High CostDeployment, maintenance, and the cost of interacting gadgets are high, inflating infrastructure costs.1. Develop cost-efficient, durable devices.2. Adopt decentralized cloud storage systems and off-chain blockchain models to reduce storage and computational cost.Adoption of Web 3.0 infrastructure for the Metaverse development.
Standards and Ethical IssuesLack of defined standards for Healthcare Metaverse1. Adopt a Contextual Approach to investigate the technology’s context and determine the flow of information constraints.2. Implement a separate regulatory framework for balancing user rights and technology growth.Implementation of Walled Gardens and a Consumer-centric approach.

Final Words

The metaverse will metamorphose healthcare services, and this transformation will alter our life. But how can healthcare organizations navigate this opportunity? Here’s a roadmap to kickstart the journey.

  • Initiate proactive innovation scouting: Start by scrutinizing the prevalent hurdles within your organization and discern viable solutions metaverse technologies can offer. Whether it involves augmenting the capacity of your care team, implementing a robust omnichannel strategy, or enhancing preventive healthcare measures, the metaverse provides answers. Opt for domains where the immediate deployment of metaverse technologies can generate substantial value in tandem with evolving market dynamics.
  • Establish a robust digital base: The metaverse’s progression requires a sophisticated and resilient digital backbone. To future-proof your organization, assess long-term infrastructure needs regarding cloud services, data governance, interoperability frameworks, and more. 
  • Equip your team for the Metaverse: Ascertain the digital skills necessary for your team to capitalize on the opportunities offered by the Metaverse effectively. Cultivate a culture of learning to facilitate their journey toward digital fluency. Tech-savvy employees who are able to integrate technology into day-to-day operations amplify an organization’s value proposition.
  • Engage the Relevant Software as your development partner: Let Relevant, a front-runner in healthcare software development, navigate you through its possibilities and benefits. We provide you with healthcare IT consulting services, leveraging a deep understanding of associated technologies such as blockchain, AI and ML, VR and AR tools, and 3D technology to build futuristic applications.

Although healthcare within the metaverse remains in its initial stages, now is the opportunity to delve into its potential, examine the prospects, and comprehend how to maximize the value derived from Metaverse technology. Contact us to explore how our AI development services can be harnessed to your advantage.

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