The metaverse is rapidly growing, with Mark Zuckerberg, founder of meta and Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm Ltd, among those leading the way. However, while corporations such as Meta and Microsoft are focusing on the metaverse through the lens of consumerism, it’s the possibilities concerning healthcare in the metaverse that could be most transformative.
What is telemedicine?
One advance in medical care the metaverse provides is telemedicine. Telemedicine is when patients receive care remotely through services such as Zoom or VR platforms. Naturally, telemedicine’s popularity soared in 2020 due to the pandemic. Many doctors and nurses find they can more efficiently diagnose minor conditions that don’t require a physical exam through telemedicine appointments. Telemedicine allows patients to access specialists across the globe that would otherwise be incredibly difficult to visit.
Telemedicine is also very beneficial for therapy. Already, VR is being used in aversion therapy to allow patients to interact with anxiety-inducing situations in a controlled environment.
Introducing digital twins
Beyond telehealth, digital twins could potentially improve virtual healthcare in the future. Digital twins are virtual models of an object or process based on date, to discover more about the actual object it is based upon. CEO of Latus Health, Jack Latus, believes the medical field will one day use digital twins to predict how individuals will react to specific treatments.
Latus explained to Forbes how practitioners will eventually be able to ‘age up’ digital twins to predict patients’ future conditions. Several health companies are already forging into the metaverse. Hekka Labs has already launched a decentralized healthcare ecosystem. Likewise, XRHealth has secured $10 million to expand metaverse healthcare treatments.
Healthcare on the blockchain
Blockchains are also an essential component of metaverse healthcare, allowing for the secure storage and transfer of patient data. Current methods of storing patient data on a central server mean the threat of a data breach is always looming. Combining blockchain, digital twins, and telemedicine will lead to quick and effective patient diagnosis and treatment. Likewise, practitioners will be able to track whether a patient is following their instructions. Using a knee injury being treated by a physiotherapist, Latus told Forbes, “It looks like a purely physical issue, but if it isn’t getting any better, you have to look at the mental effects – why isn’t it getting better?”
Virtual Hospitals are currently under development at Latus Healthcare, in which patients access a VR hospital using a headset and receive physiotherapy and counseling. Physiotherapists will use cameras to detect the range of motion in injured joints and track a patient’s recovery process. According to Latus, practitioners can note recovery progress at degrees too small for a patient to notice with this technology.
“With VR and AR, we’re able to give them much better feedback on their process … for example, someone with a shoulder joint issue, if that shoulder range of motion improves by three percent, as an individual, you probably wouldn’t feel that,” Latus said.