It is appropriate that the parallel realities offered by the metaverse paint an upbeat future while reality post-Covid-19 becomes more and more burdened with economic, geopolitical, and social headwinds. A global technological gold rush has been sparked by the metaverse’s potential to revolutionise entertainment, employment, commerce, and social life; yet, much has to be learned about its potential effects on healthcare.
The Experience Of Healthcare Reimagined
Despite the metaphorical metaverse’s numerous layers, it may be summed up as an online environment that is exponentially more experienced, interactive, and distinguished by its immersive nature rather than one that is gradually more of these things. It stands for the “second coming of the internet,” a reinvention that is enhanced and created with components of hyperconnectivity, augmented and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.
These technological foundations in healthcare have the potential to completely rethink the doctor-patient relationship and have already proven to be incredibly beneficial as care has developed over the past ten years. Even before the phrase “metaverse” was invented, physical therapy, cognitive therapy, and rehabilitation were all being practised. The Metaverse, Web 3.0, and all the other futuristic technologies are now supporting our ability to provide care, much like Max Goodwin in New Amsterdam: “How can I help?”
How the Metaverse Can Be Useful
Due to the walled structure of current healthcare models, the convergence of these new-age technologies will free healthcare providers to provide a range of highly integrated, deliberate, and personalised care. The speed of communication between doctors and patients, as well as between doctors, allows for hitherto unheard-of levels of sophistication in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment—the traditional primary components of healthcare delivery.
Our appetites for remote treatment have been whetted and many are hungry for what lies beyond this ceiling thanks to the pandemic-driven uptake of telemedicine. With a virtual reality-enhanced next-generation doctor-patient interaction, the metaverse offers the potential for Telemedicine 2.0. This additional level of immersion could significantly increase the efficacy of both therapeutic and diagnostic efforts, and in fact, such instruments have a long history of usage in the treatment of mental diseases using virtual stimuli.
The ability to create “digital twins” in the virtual world, or digital representations of people, offers precision medicine and a greater capacity for personalised study. These “guinea pigs” can help us grasp each person’s unique physiological, psychological, and pharmacological profiles with great detail. Through simulated medical tests, they enable precise scientific investigation by predicting how our bodies will respond in the future to a variety of situations. By enabling us to viscerally restructure our pain-pleasure incentive structures and see and feel the impacts of our health (mis)behaviors, this glimpse through the looking glass has the potential to transform preventative care.
What then occurs to hospitals?
Even though there will probably always be physical hospitals, there is now a race to develop an integrated virtual reality medical setting that is accessible through a headset. The first medical facility in the metaverse has been launched by the hospital chain Aster DM Healthcare in the UAE, in keeping with Dubai’s goal to become the world’s metaverse centre. They aim to allow an enhanced and immersive remote doctor-patient experience through the full-scale launch of their hospitals on Web 3.0.
Dr. Shanila Laiju, CEO of Medcare Hospitals, reaffirmed her conviction that conventional telemedicine services will be replaced by a more concrete and innovative service in the metaverse at GITEX 2022, the world’s largest startup & unicorn event. Similar intentions have been made public by the Thumbay group, a diverse international commercial conglomerate, to build a whole virtual hospital in the metaverse so that patients could have an immersive medical experience. Yes, the race has begun.
A reality check or virtual reality?
The revolution of the healthcare sector is probably going to meet a lot of obstacles, even though the path to the metaverse is paved with good intentions. The (very) vast majority of people on Earth cannot access many of these technologies because of pervasive economic disparities. Furthermore, the logistical details necessary to make this new form of care work are still a mystery to us. We still don’t know how healthcare consumers will be drawn to the metaverse, how it will interact with actual healthcare requirements, or how we’ll link patients up with the virtual world. Will VR headsets eventually replace smartphones?
Additionally, the traditionally unwieldy healthcare sector, which is supported by history and heritage, will need to rethink its business models to conform to new forms of care. In a world where the widespread acceptance of telemedicine took more than 20 years and a pandemic to trigger, reimbursements, insurance, and distant therapies will need to be overhauled.
Nothing Attempted, Nothing Accomplished
Despite these obstacles, we must be enthusiastic about this ground-breaking technology because it has the potential to drastically improve healthcare. Anything that might transcend geographical boundaries, enhance patient care globally, and advance human health is a prospect worth investigating. That is the truth.
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