By Nikhil Mathur
The world of technology is headed towards a paradigm shift, and the application of artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR), is becoming ubiquitous. The obvious way forward seems to be the next iteration of the internet.
This metaverse is a single, shared, immersive, persistent, 3D virtual space where humans experience life, even in the absence of physical proximity. In the field of medicine, metaverse is all set to be a game-changer. It advances healthcare 4.0 by enhancing patient safety results, enabling patients to participate, and giving them a clear picture of their health status.
Fusing technologies like AI, AR, VR, through continuously evolving connectivity like 5G networks helps in building online experiences that are more immersive, interactive, and experiential.
The metaverse is an overlap of the real and the virtual world, creating a 3D universe that connects multiple virtual domains. The combination of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, web 3.0 technologies, and virtual reality create apt conditions for innovative solutions. Though, in its nascent stage of development, it is set to shift the perspective of the healthcare ecosystem through its immersive experience.
Hospital chains are increasingly veering towards the metaverse space to improve their patient care and services.
According to Market Research Future (MRFR) analysis, a significant 48.3% CAGR is expected to drive worldwide healthcare in the metaverse market to $5,373 million by 2030. This prediction is based on the fact that many patients have already joined or are considering joining this virtual environment.
The use of the metaverse in healthcare can significantly improve patient outcomes by opening up brand-new channels for the distribution of reasonably priced medications.
Telemedicine: The metaverse can be an excellent tool for medical professionals, enabling remote monitoring and prescribing telemedicine for patients with limited access to medical treatment. The popularity of the use of telemedicine during the Covid-19 pandemic is a testimony of its efficacy. While only 43% of healthcare facilities could treat patients remotely as of 2020, today it is a whopping 95%. Doctors and nurses are able to diagnose many minor conditions, which form a significant part of their caseloads, more quickly and efficiently, via a phone chat or video session without a physical exam (or through visual examination). Virtual reality opens up an entirely new world of options, that makes it possible for the next-level immersion that partially qualifies a platform or application as a component of the metaverse.
Digital Twinning: The global metaverse infrastructure can be improved using the ‘Digital Twin’ concept. By examining its virtual or digital counterpart, it will be able to possible to ascertain and forecast the present and future states of any physical asset.
By incorporating digital twins in the metaverse, businesses and organisations can improve customer service and offer better insight into the performance of their products. By lowering the danger of other medical procedures and supporting doctors, digital twinning has improved the medical industry. A digital twin is a virtual representation, or simulation, of any process, system, or item created using data from the real world to learn more about its exact counterpart. The patients themselves could be the digital twin in the metaverse scenario. By enhancing patient monitoring, digital twins powered by IoT data can be extremely important in the healthcare industry. With individualized health care, it can provide patients with preventive actions.
Blockchain Management: Blockchain, the technology that powers cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, is also a key component of healthcare-related metaverse applications. The technique ensures that data may be exchanged and stored securely, preventing access by anybody other than the owner. Presently, important data is being regularly transmitted in an opaque and ineffective manner between various healthcare providers. It is susceptible to data theft and could endanger the security of millions of patients. With the use of blockchain technology, it is possible to possess non-hackable records of their own and grant permission to access the same. The Indian healthcare industry can use blockchain technology in a variety of ways to cut costs and improve access to care.
Education and Training: The metaverse can help ensure that healthcare staff obtains education and training even in the most remote locations by removing the constraints of physical barriers. Furthermore, simulating a real-life setting without endangering patients’ lives, can aid in the upskilling of individuals in healthcare services. The metaverse is one of the main technologies that will broaden the serviceable area to a bigger patient base globally by providing additional services, service delivery methods and payment models. Since the metaverse would be the way of online engagement in the future, it is anticipated that this technology will experience significant growth in the healthcare sector in the coming years.
Healthcare delivery is being revolutionised by digital health, which is also playing a crucial role in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. It is anticipated that VR/AR will have a causal impact on creating medical education training modules and developing doctors’ and medical students’ communication abilities. The introduction of these technologies will impact the healthcare sector positively. The existing approach to illness prevention and treatment will see an improved sea change. However, there is still a long way to go before the medical sector undergoes the metaverse revolution.
Patients with long-term diseases or mental health difficulties could also reap the benefits of the metaverse through access to virtual support groups and therapy sessions. These online support groups aid in creating a sense of belonging and connection for those who may not have access to in-person support. Ultimately, a virtual hospital with access to all medical services, from diagnosis to treatment, could be built using the metaverse.
The author is the group chief of medical services, CARE Hospitals Group