Hospitals will soon offer their services in the metaverse, and pharmacies will follow them closely. The American drugstore giant, CVS Pharmacy, is looking to be the first pharmacy in the metaverse. There are many questions about the so-called meta pharmacies. When will these pharmacies become available for customers?
In the metaverse, humans are fully immersed in a virtual world, interacting with one another through an avatar.
Patients will arrive at the metaverse pharmacy as avatars, consult with a meta-pharmacist, and receive a virtual prescription.
The actual medicine will later get delivered by drone.
One of the biggest challenges is to ensure patients' privacy and data in the metaverse.
The American drugstore giant, CVS Pharmacy, is looking to be the first pharmacy in the metaverse.
What will a metaverse pharmacy look like? How are these pharmacies going to work? Let's find out.
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse is a virtual reality where people can socialize, work, shop, live, and even access medical care. This new world combines physical reality with virtual and augmented reality, where a person can interact with others and the new environment through an avatar.
Metaverse includes several layers, including infrastructures like 5G, Wi-Fi, and cloud human interfaces, like smart glasses and wearables. These also integrate decentralized tools, like blockchain, spatial computing including geospatial mapping, 3D, virtual reality, and various other experiences, which include games, social, shopping, and e-sports.
For example, patients can access the metaverse using virtual reality (VR) equipment, like headsets, gloves, and vests, along with augmented reality (AR), such as smartwatches and artificial intelligence (AI). Patients can pay for the services using digital currency. Some describe the metaverse as a new enhanced 3D Internet that creates a highly-interactive environment.
Additionally, the COVID pandemic created a rapid shift towards telemedicine and using digital tools for many industries. Healthcare has already incorporated new technologies. As a result, patients can now research various medical topics and medications as well as have better access to medical information and new treatments.
Thumbay Group, a UAE company, is set to launch the world’s first metaverse hospital. In this virtual hospital, a patient’s avatar can take a tour of the hospital, consult with a doctor in a shared virtual space, and learn more about various treatments and procedures.
Metaverse pharmacy – what would it offer?
In February 2022, CVS Pharmacy applied for a trademark to offer services in the metaverse. CVS plans to sell downloadable virtual goods, like prescription drugs, beauty, wellness, personal care, and health care services. The giant pharmacy chain is also considering providing non-emergency medical services and wellness and nutrition coaching. What they envision is a virtual healthcare clinic.
Meanwhile, Kronans Apotek, one of the largest Swedish pharmacy chains, has started experimenting in the metaverse and exploring how the metaverse can enhance the patient experience and access to healthcare. Just like the internet provides better and faster solutions for day-to-day needs, the goal of a metaverse pharmacy is to help patients find better ways to monitor their prescriptions, learn how to take the drugs, receive reminders, and track their medicine.
How would a meta pharmacy work?
Aragorn Meulendijks, the chief marketing officer at Your Open Metaverse (YOM) and podcaster, invites you to 2030. Over one billion people will be using VR headsets by that time, and the metaverse market will have reached $1 trillion. Here's how the metaverse pharmacy would work:
Get a meta consultation
As a patient, you would come to the meta pharmacy as a digital avatar and receive medical advice through meta consultation.
Pick prescription drugs as NFTs
The meta pharmacist would take the prescription drug from a virtual shelf as a non-fungible token (NFT) and hand it to your avatar.
Pay for medicine with cryptocurrencies
You would pay for the medicine using digital coins that are validated in a blockchain and the transaction would be marked in your virtual health record.
Receive the physical drugs delivered by a drone
Once the virtual experience is done, the medication would be delivered by a drone to your physical address.
Meta pharmacists will require additional training in metaverse therapeutics. This way they will be able to create metaverse personalized plans and refer you as needed for financial advice to a relevant company in the metaverse. The old, direct-to-patient business model is replaced with the direct-to-avatar model.
Meta pharmacies may expand into space
Companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are already exploring space outside the Earth's atmosphere. Therefore, pharmacists may need training in Space Medicines and Space Social Prescribing to join spaceships.
As the metaverse is a relatively new concept and still in its experimental phase, its future is uncertain. Remember, there were plenty of predictions about the internet in the 1980s — and many of them did not come true. However, technology did evolve, only in other ways. Experts believe that initially, we will likely see useful tool improvements. Telemedicine will be enhanced with VR, patients will receive consultation in the avatar form, and medical procedures like 3D surgery will be enhanced.
Challenges of the metaverse for healthcare
Each industry will experience challenges when adopting the metaverse. When it comes to metaverse hospitals and pharmacies, the patient’s privacy and data are essential. Therefore, researchers need to create ways to keep medical information safe and secure. Potential cybersecurity issues are one of the biggest concerns.
Many questions still require answers and patient-medical professional situations and interactions need addressing. For example, in the real world, workers in the healthcare system must adhere to special regulatory requirements regarding drugs, devices, and medical procedures. A similar version has to be created in the metaverse.
More specific concerns include the following:
- How will clinical trials be conducted and regulated in the metaverse?
- How will medical professionals monitor the adverse reactions of the patient/avatar?
- What kind of qualifications are required for healthcare professionals who are licensed in specific geographic areas, yet consulting a person that is outside of their licensed area?