The Metaverse is a virtual world in which individuals can communicate, do business, and shop from the convenience of their homes. Through the use of technology like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), social networks, and digital currencies, users can navigate a virtual space that mirrors parts of the actual world in the Metaverse (Chengoden et al., 2022). Due to the fast-growing technology worldwide, Metaverse will be very important and dominant in most businesses. Many entrepreneurs have shown lots of interest in investing in the future use of Metaverse in different businesses to achieve better results and profits. In the healthcare industry, to be specific, Metaverse will be a very powerful technology to the empress in the coming years.
Virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence are laying the groundwork for the Metaverse in practically every business sector. The uniqueness of the Metaverse affords businesses a competitive advantage, boosts sales, and enhances brand recognition (Chengoden et al., 2022). Nevertheless, the Metaverse is promising to be a lot more in the healthcare field. In addition to telehealth’s natural evolution—installed as a new standard after the global epidemic can also overcome the biggest obstacles and hurdles in healthcare. Healthcare will undergo a revolutionary change due to metaverse technology, which will improve surgical precision, provide new channels for medication, and cut costs while enhancing patient outcomes.
Metaverse changes the business model of the healthcare industry.
The Metaverse will be used for diagnosis and management, monitoring patient outcomes, and advanced diagnostic and procedural simulations. These technologies help speed up patients’ learning about their diseases or treatment options. AR and VR can assist caregivers at the point of service in healthcare. When integrated with radiography, augmented reality (AR) can give doctors a better view of interior anatomy by allowing them to project medical pictures like CT (Computed Tomography) scans precisely onto the client and in line with the body of the patient, even if the patient is moving (Thomason, 2021).
The potential for using the Metaverse in health care is enormous. Real-time advice can be given in the surgeon’s field of view through interactive experiences replicating surgical procedures. Access to data within the surgery room’s sterile field will be made possible by augmented reality, improving surgical accuracy and flexibility (Thomason, 2021). The Metaverse will enable coordinated surgical procedures and synchronized planning, training, and teaching.
Training and learning
Medical training and education, as well as practices and procedures, will alter due to the usage of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in learning. Virtual reality (VR) enables students to “inside” the human body, offering a complete perspective and enabling the replication of natural treatments. Additionally, augmented reality (AR) gives students hands-on learning opportunities, such as mimicking patient and surgical experiences, to let medical students see and practice new procedures (Thomason, 2021). Students could be given even more lifelike simulations of actual operations to do the procedure as if they were the surgeons themselves.
AR is starting to be incorporated into the program at medical schools to give students more beneficial opportunities for practical training. Medical students can envision and rehearse procedures during learning thanks to AR apps that emulate patient and surgical interactions.
Wellness and fitness
In the field of wellness and fitness, where augmented reality (AR) may give smarter exercises with coaching from virtual coaches, gamification is a new way to link patients and healthcare professionals (Wiederhold, 2022). Another novel idea is “move-to-earn,” which encourages players to be active. For instance, participants in Genopets can earn rewards for moving around and going about their daily lives by leveraging data from wearables and smartphones.
In the Metaverse, 3D avatars of healthcare professionals will also be able to communicate with tools like virtual whiteboards and hold face-to-face meetings without elaborate conferencing technology (Thomason, 2021). Before using them in a real setting, devices, systems, and procedures will be securely tested using smart technology to find flaws and weaknesses.
Additionally, the Metaverse can promote and facilitate teamwork. The study, a new EdTech system with Metaverse on-ramps and ease of access for the organization of collaborative projects (Wiederhold, 2022). Students can be grouped into teams with comparable levels of achievement by ranking them based on their performance and activities. With the use of tokens, social cooperation will be encouraged.
Strategic limitations of the Metaverse in the healthcare industry
The Metaverse has its limitations, just like new technologies generally do. The Metaverse may contribute to healthcare disparities related to gadget possession, digital skills, and internet connectivity as it becomes more widely used. Additionally, virtual objects like related technologies raise concerns about privacy and information ownership in the healthcare industry.
Inefficiency in data security and privacy
In order to preserve patient data, the industry must consider data ownership and privacy issues and create new safeguards and rules. This will be a restriction given that the operation of the Metaverse necessitates the gathering, processing, and disseminating of vast amounts of private information (Petrigna & Musumeci, 2022). This covers many things that could be considered biometric or medical information, like user motions, physiological reactions, and even brain wave patterns. Even if the acquisition, use, and release of biometric and health information do not entirely violate data security and privacy laws, they pose unique difficulties and call for greater security.
High Upfront costs involved
To fully utilize the Metaverse, healthcare institutions would need to spend money on high-tech equipment, such as headsets, gloves, and other necessary gadgets. As a result, the technology will probably first only be available to those who can buy it. Additionally, the cost of the equipment for metaverse services is anticipated to be relatively high as it needs high connections, particularly for use cases like surgical help.
Interoperability, a crucial aspect of the present healthcare model, has not yet been considered in the context of the medical Metaverse. The industry must change its current information and communication guidelines to speed up the implementation of the Metaverse (Petrigna & Musumeci, 2022). Concerning the above difficulty, interoperability problems have been identified as a major obstacle to implementing healthcare solutions in the Metaverse. It will be necessary to determine whether devices can switch between various networks and platforms without experiencing any issues, which would require considerable changes. Currently, it is typical for some gear not to work properly with platforms and devices from other companies, which would be problematic for patients and healthcare workers.
Digital literacy limitations
Along with this, the effectiveness of the customer experience and the appeal it offers to patients and medical professionals will likely be key factors in implementing and continued use of metaverse-based healthcare services, such as a 100% immersive consultation or a physiotherapy or psychotherapy session. The cost of the technology and training patients and staff on how to utilize it could be expensive given the existing levels of hardware complexity (some equipment is clumsy).
Dealing with concerns around privacy and cybersecurity
With stringent information security laws in place worldwide, security and confidentiality are two major concerns regarding healthcare and the Metaverse (Wang et al., 2022). The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a collection of regulations that prevents patient data sharing without authorization, is a good illustration. Data protection will be particularly significant in the early phases of deployment when new security vulnerabilities might not yet have been identified and fixed.
These worries are made worse because the Metaverse may consist of numerous independent yet connected platforms. Healthcare in the Metaverse will have significant challenges in providing reliable security for such vast and confidential data sets in a brand-new environment. However, it is feasible that unchangeable ledger technology like blockchain will one day provide a reliable and workable answer. The organization places a high priority on accessibility, data protection, and cybersecurity. Implementing technological advances in a healthy and strong network can be challenging, but the key to all emerging technology installations has the appropriate IT architecture to suit your needs (Wang et al., 2022). According to 2B3D, the blockchain and NFTs capabilities are the answer to the problems of data protection and cybersecurity. Blockchain technologies could be used to maintain medical records with ease.
Blockchain technology is well known for its possibilities for safety. Since the blockchain is distributed, no particular server or storage facility is used to store or upload data. Since all devices or nodes in the network must be attacked at once for the data to be exposed, information on the blockchain travels via many computers or nodes, is encrypted and is verified. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, among other state and federal regulations, have defined legal requirements for patient data management that healthcare businesses must adhere to.
In conclusion, the Metaverse cannot fully replace reality; gestures, facial gestures, and physical interaction are crucial components in the healthcare industry. This is due to the different imitations that the technology is currently facing in the healthcare industry and the security concerns that are yet to be addressed (Wang et al., 2022). However, the Metaverse can be seen as a tool to enhance the quality of the health care system in terms of intervention and treatment, global education, ensuring consistent training, and aiding in creating global databases for research. Finally, given how much time people spend in front of screens, the Metaverse might be a place where therapy can be done by virtually interacting with patients and care providers.
Chengoden, R., Victor, N., Huynh-The, T., Yenduri, G., Jhaveri, R. H., Alazab, M., … & Gadekallu, T. R. (2022). Metaverse for Healthcare: A Survey on Potential Applications, Challenges, and Future Directions. arXiv preprint arXiv:2209.04160.
Petrigna, L., & Musumeci, G. (2022). The Metaverse: A New Challenge for the Healthcare System: A Scoping Review. Journal of functional morphology and kinesiology, 7(3), 63.
Thomason, J. (2021). MetaHealth-How will the Metaverse Change Health Care?. Journal of Metaverse, 1(1), 13-16.
Wang, Y., Su, Z., Zhang, N., Xing, R., Liu, D., Luan, T. H., & Shen, X. (2022). A survey on Metaverse: Fundamentals, security, and privacy. IEEE Communications Surveys & Tutorials.
Wiederhold, B. K. (2022). Metaverse Games: Game Changer for Healthcare? Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 25(5), 267-269.