Healthcare in the Metaverse
Updated: Jul 20, 2022
The Metaverse will impact all facets of our lives, not least our work and social lives. But it will also have a significant impact across all industries, from the extraction and production of raw material, to manufacturing, construction and service industries.
One area that is sure to be impacted in a significant way is the healthcare industry. Like the education industry, healthcare is no stranger to innovation and technology and is regularly at the forefront of technological advancement. Take the recent pandemic-induced innovation that accelerated the development of a Covid vaccine for example.
So, what might healthcare in the Metaverse look like? First and foremost, the pandemic has accelerated the transition to digital health – a 2021 report by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society stated that: “80% of health systems said they plan to increase their investment levels in digital health over the next five years.” Digital health covers a broad range of digital technologies and health innovation to support physical health and mental well-being, one of which is telehealth. Telehealth, or telemedicine, is concerned with virtual patient to clinician contact, care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions.
Today, medical practitioners are using digital technologies to enable virtual consultations, removing the need for patients to travel, and remote monitoring, using internet of things devices in people’s homes to track vital signs, enabling patients to be managed at home and reducing hospital admissions. So, what might the hyperconvergence of the physical and digital worlds a driven by the Metaverse hold?
Leading telehealth specialties currently include psychiatry and substance use disorder treatment and endocrinology. In the Metaverse, therapists would be able to create hyper-realistic, immersive, interactive environments and scenarios that support patient therapy, reducing problems associated with paranoia, persecutory delusions, and functional impairment. Virtual worlds will also be able to help improve social skills, increased patient interaction in social situations and improving adaptability in real-life interpersonal situations – VRChat has been praised for helping people with autism improve their public speaking and in enabling human interaction during Covid-19.
What else? The Metaverse could also support pediatric psychiatry, with virtual worlds built to help children with attention training, social skills training, and cognitive rehabilitation. Safe, virtual environments could be created for the treatment of drug abuse, where patients can be helped to overcome drug addictions by allowing exposure to environmental cues that trigger patients without the attendant risk of a real-life, high-risk environment.
The question should be: “What won’t we be able to do?”