The future of healthcare is digital, as we know, and the metaverse as an upcoming technology has enormous potential for the industry. The metaverse is essentially a cumulation of many enabling technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, quantum computing, and the internet of medical devices.
These technologies are bringing about a lot of changes within the healthcare sector. In academics, for instance, it brings the potential for healthcare training, providing more exposure globally, and can connect learners to interact actively among themselves and with patients worldwide. The opportunities are immense, like deep diving into discussions while navigating a three-dimensional model of the human body.
It also benefits patients equally. Using just a headset, patients can access a virtual reality medical setting that focuses on physical therapy treatments. Providing healing surroundings will create a calming space for the patient and encourage control over physiological responses, while pre- and post-operative virtual reality patient counselling in the metaverse will help improve patient recoveries.
Surgeries can also become more advanced with the metaverse. Reconstructive surgeries, which are complicated and intense procedures, with the help of a virtual avatar, could help accurately predict the surgery’s outcome. Simulation tools can be more accurately built as well. This will help in further taking surgical or medical decisions for individuals.
Shedding light on the impact of the metaverse in healthcare, Dr. Fatih Mehmet Gul, Chief Executive Officer, Fakeeh University Hospital, discusses the implications of the technology on the industry. Excerpts:
How do you think the metaverse will impact the future of hospitals as brick-and-mortar buildings and entire infrastructures?
Metaverse or any virtual care setting can potentially reduce healthcare infrastructure and delivery costs, which can benefit both hospitals and patients. However, hospitals will always have use of a physical set-up for surgeries and all types of advanced healthcare services. In the long run, this could provide healthcare to a larger patient base with low-cost functions. As a smart hospital, Fakeeh University Hospital is already providing virtual care with teleconsultations and offering our healthcare products online through FUH online. With the right security and outcomes in place, the metaverse can make a place for itself in the business models of many hospitals.
Dr. Fatih Mehmet Gul, Chief Executive Officer, Fakeeh University Hospital
Looking at the impact of the healthcare metaverse, how will it change the classical roles we are accustomed to in hospitals or point-of-care settings?
Point-of-care settings are defined as healthcare services and medical diagnostics at or near the patient. In the metaverse, most basic services can be provided online. As far as hospitals are concerned, first consultations and references can be taken online through the metaverse. For doctors to explain the condition and offer a solution, 3D models can be used to drive patient consultations and understanding. Even diagnostics have a way in the metaverse. Global firms are exploring methods to develop X-ray technology that can scan a photo to produce an X-ray. This has the capacity to turn the most basic function of hospitals virtual.
Mental healthcare that has taken the forefront in the past few years has benefitted from metaverse and VR. Digital experiences within the metaverse can be moulded to have a direct impact on the behaviour of the patient.
What are some other key pieces of advice you would give to healthcare professionals who are preparing themselves for the shift towards the metaverse?
The metaverse can be a game-changer for the healthcare sector but can also bring its share of challenges. It represents a paradigm shift in healthcare that stakeholders must be aware of. The outcomes range from smooth integration across the current medical infrastructure to balancing hospital costs and data security/privacy problems.
Additionally, the market needs to be studied well first and perhaps prepped too. There may be a set of patients who would not be ready for metaverse and still prefer the traditional methods of consultation and treatment.
Privacy and security of healthcare data is another dimension. To increase the likelihood of individuals adopting metaverse, technology businesses should explore ways to bring more security and patient consent.
Lastly, any modern technology comes at an added cost, at least in the initial phase. Thus, it is vital that hospitals and other healthcare providers, along with tech developers, should find a way to make the metaverse more user-friendly and cost-effective.
This article appears in Omnia Health magazine. Read the full issue online today.
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