Is the Metaverse Hospital the Future of Healthcare?

“Metaverse” has been a buzzword in recent years. Some feel enthusiastic, while others express deep uncertainty about this new virtual place where people can live, work, shop, and even visit a hospital. What will Metaverse hospitals look like? Read on to learn more about the future of healthcare and hospitals in the virtual world.

Key takeaways:
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    A Metaverse is a virtual place where people can live, work, shop, and even live, to a certain degree, using virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
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    Metaverse hospitals are the hospitals of tomorrow, as this virtual world is incorporated into the medical system.
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    There are pros and cons to a Metaverse hospital, but overall there is great potential to eliminate barriers to accessing medical care and improve patient outcomes.

What is metaverse?

The term metaverse was coined by Neal Stephenson in the early 1990s in his science fiction novel Snow Crash, in which he described life-like avatars meeting in virtual 3D buildings and other environments.

Metaverse is currently described as a 3D model of the internet, a shared virtual space that is highly interactive, immersive, and realistic. In this world, humans are fully immersed in interacting one with another through an avatar.

A few technological tools are used to access the metaverse: virtual reality (VR) tools like headsets, gloves, and vests that enable users to interact with virtual surroundings; augmented reality (AR) glasses; smartwatches and other smart devices; artificial intelligence; and digital currency.

This new, enhanced virtual word, is another word. “The metaverse can be considered a location in which the real world is augmented, connected, and replicated with virtual reality and, consequently, as another world.”

Internet versus metaverse

The Internet was a new technology back in the 80s, although its vision started decades before. Similarly, the metaverse is in the process of becoming an essential part of cyberspace by 2040, according to some experts.

We’ve already experienced elements of a metaverse in online games like Fortnite and Minecraft, and virtual reality devices already exist.

When the internet and computing first developed, everything was based on text, like messages and emails. Media was slowly added, and photos, videos, and live streams became available several years later. The next step is to improve the user interface and the user experience in 3D.

While the internet is something you simply browse, you can experience and live in the metaverse, to a certain degree, using virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

What will metaverse hospitals look like?

Experts predict that complex surgeries will incorporate augmented realities, similar to how surgical procedures already use robotics. Virtual reality is already used by doctors to train students and medical professionals.

A UAE-based healthcare company called Thumbay Group announced the launch of the world’s first metaverse hospital late in 2022. Using AR and VR, patients will use their avatars to interact with the doctor in a shared virtual space. What will the metaverse hospitals look like? Let’s review the pros and cons in detail.

The pros

Breaking down the barriers of distance and long waiting times. Using a metaverse hospital means no more travel time or getting stuck in traffic. Patients from other countries can access and have a tour of the entire hospital - from the comfort of their homes. They can learn about various services and treatments that are offered by the virtual hospital.

Enhance virtual care. Telemedicine gained popularity in the last few years, but regular phone or video consultations use online interfaces, separating the healthcare provider from the patient. A metaverse hospital will use holoportation. Using this model, the doctor will interact with and even examine the patient in a 3D projection, as they would share the same virtual space.

Improved medical diagnosis and treatment. Patient data can be shared easier and faster among doctors from various specialties. This means that potential complications, or other issues related to the treatment, can be detected and addressed earlier. Treating mental and emotional conditions could also improve. For example, some companies are currently testing the use of VR to teach children with autism-specific behavioral skills.

More training for healthcare professionals. Medical schools are slowly incorporating VR and AR into their learning models. Students, physicians, and other healthcare providers in training can interact, share experiences, watch various surgeries and procedures, and even practice on a virtual human body in the metaverse.

The cons

New technology is always a challenge, and it will take time to find the best option to deliver care in a new, virtual environment.

Concerns about data security. Like other digital platforms, data security can be compromised. Metaverse hospitals must be equipped with enhanced security systems to keep patients’ data safe and available only to authorized healthcare personnel working in the metaverse hospital.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (or HIPAA) sets specific rules and has to adapt regarding how much information is shared in the metaverse. Various countries have different data rules, and doctors are also restricted to practice in specific geographic areas, limiting their ability to work in a metaverse with international patients.

Older adults may have difficulty using the metaverse. Older populations require more medical care due to chronic illness, yet they are less tech-savvy or willing to embrace VR and AR.

Technology is advancing quickly, and the healthcare system is keeping up with this new technology. Metaverse hospitals are a new frontier in medicine and medical care. While this new system has both pros and cons, it has great potential to eliminate barriers to accessing medical care and improve patient outcomes.

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