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The traditional healthcare market has always been about physical appointments, manual patient examinations, and treatment protocols completely dependent on human intervention. However, with COVID-19 the need for contactless treatment propelled and evolved the healthcare industry to an unimaginable extent. With this we have a new era – Healthcare 4.0, a tech-driven concept that enhances the overall healthcare experience.
Like the concept of Industry 4.0 that revolves around smart machines getting access to large amounts of data, allowing them to make decisions without human involvement, Healthcare 4.0 also refers to a wide range of tech possibilities that laid the new foundation for the healthcare sector.
Over the first phase of Healthcare 4.0, we have seen the utmost usage of the Internet of Medical Things, Medical Cyber Systems, Health Cloud, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Analytics, Machine Learning, Blockchain, etc. This has drastically improved the quality, flexibility, productivity, cost-effectiveness, and dependability of healthcare services.
The second phase of Healthcare 4.0 introduced us to the world of Virtual and Augmented Reality.
Virtual reality is a simulated 3D environment that enables users to interact with virtual surroundings in a way that approximates reality as perceived through our senses. This approximation of reality is accessed through a VR headset that takes over a user’s field of vision. Imagine yourself performing surgery while you are in the classroom with your professor who is explaining the procedure to you. Virtual Reality gives you a simulated experience.
On the other hand, Augmented reality is less immersive than VR. It adds a digital layer on top of the real world enabling users to still interact with their real-world environment. The Pokémon Go game is an early example of AR. Google Glass and heads-up displays are some of the AR products. Physicians can now explain a procedure more clearly to a patient with the help of AR.
But now, humans all around the globe, are witnessing an inevitable invention of the internet, the third phase of Healthcare 4.0, i.e. the Metaverse.
What is Metaverse? And how is it relevant to Healthcare Industry?
The word Metaverse is a combination of two words – in Greek meta means ‘beyond’ and verse means ‘universe’, beyond the universe. The Metaverse is a space where an individual will be able to perform work, learn, play, or create; including experiences that are not possible in today’s world.
By 2024, it is expected that the Metaverse market size will be approximately US$800 billion. And as we discuss, many Healthcare industry specialists will be working towards exploring the various game-changing possibilities it can bring to the table.
Metaverse technology is still evolving, however, it includes the combination of three major technologies — Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR). Together, they open up a new window and endless possibilities for providing treatments, bringing down operational costs, and a better understanding of results in medical services.
Metaverse shows great potential in the healthcare segment and enhances the association between the patient and the physician. It will help resolve several issues like versatility or geological impediments, psychological well-being, etc.
What are the major implications of Metaverse in the healthcare sector?
- Telemedicine 2.0 – Virtual Hospital
The COVID-19 pandemic helped in advancing the utilization of telemedicine in such a way that now the utilization rate has increased to 95%. Metaverse will upgrade telemedicine visits with a virtual office, where patients and specialists can meet in a 3D center and provide pre and post-operative patient counseling. It will also provide virtual reality-mediated exercises to improve their emotional regulation abilities. This personalized approach to patients can increase patient satisfaction as well as outcomes.
- Advanced Metaverse Powered Surgeries
Metaverse can be developed and utilized for supporting diagnosis and for pre-surgical preparation and training, in addition to their potential for usage in operating rooms. Specialists can utilize the platform to study the patient’s anatomy and pathology in 3D, plan surgical procedures in the virtual environment, and practice the surgical procedures or medical device usage before operating on a patient.
- Advanced Metaverse Powered Medical Training
Gone are the days, when medical students get just knowledge transfer or limit themselves from practical experiences. This is the most significant advantage the healthcare segment could gain with Metaverse. With Metaverse, medical training will be more effective in areas that need advanced practice and interactions. It will provide the learner with an immersive environment that gives more insight into human anatomy and pathology and provide a 360-degree perspective of a patient’s disease or mimic treatments.
Limitations of Metaverse in Healthcare
There is no doubt that Metaverse is going to be beneficial for the healthcare industry, but this innovation accompanies certain limitations too. No matter what Metaverse promises, the current lack of privacy regulations for the Metaverse presents many limitations such as:
- Patient protection and privacy regulations
- Cyber attacks
- Extensive data collection
- Data rights and ownership
- Higher operational costs
- User-to-user privacy
Overcoming these limitations is challenging but on the other side, it possesses a bright future for the healthcare segment. Metaverse is not just part of science fiction anymore, it has become a part of Healthcare 4.0. It is time that we embrace Metaverse and its applications and we continue exploring ways to make it safer, inclusive, and accessible for everyone.
Organizations are becoming increasingly digital and Artificial Intelligence is being deployed in many of them. Often small tech-savvy start-ups and large firms with huge funds, like those in technology and finance businesses, are deploying sophisticated forms of AI.