Is the Healthcare Industry Spearheading the Metaverse?

Doctors are currently treating patients suffering from phobias such as acrophobia by placing them in virtual environments to challenge their fears. Doctors are also using VR to treat patients suffering from mental disorders such as OCD and social anxiety.

The medical metaverse has arrived. While Mark Zuckerberg is being chastised for Meta’s surreal graphics and out-of-touch presentations, healthcare professionals have been quietly employing the Web 3 technologies to train surgeons and treat social anxiety. The industry, however, believes it is only getting started.

The Zuck may find it challenging to be taken seriously by the Twitterati. He can, however, be credited with being the person who started the whole metaverse craze. He announced the rebranding of Facebook to Meta in October 2021 to support the company’s transition to a metaverse business.

Last year, the CEO of the social media giant preached about the metaverse, claiming that it would be the biggest thing to happen to the internet since smartphones. He imagined that the next stage of the internet would provide users with a sense of presence with one another via virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), or even holograms.

The announcement caused a landslide in the tech community. Suddenly, every company seemed to want to rebrand itself as a metaverse business. Their pivots appeared to be successful: metaverse companies received billions of dollars in venture capital funding this year.

The phrase “metaverse” became such a popular buzzword in part because it lacks a commonly accepted definition. Apart from bridging the digital and physical worlds, businesses have been given free rein to instill whatever meaning they see fit into the term. As a result, everyone from video game developers like Epic Games and Roblox to tech behemoths like Nvidia and Microsoft can call themselves metaverse companies. Some argue that defining the metaverse is premature because it is still being built. According to WIRED, the internet existed in the 1970s, but no one knew what it would look like in 2022.

Despite the ambiguity, Zuckerberg’s cringe-worthy presentations, and some strange-looking game worlds that appear to be designed to sell non-fungible tokens, experts believe medical professionals will be the first to benefit from the metaverse. “The metaverse has the potential to transform how people work, shop, communicate, and consume content,” said Rupantar Guha, an analyst at research firm GlobalData. According to an Accenture report, more than eight in ten healthcare executives believe the metaverse will have a positive impact on the industry. According to the report, the metaverse is “the next horizon” in healthcare.

Is the Medical Metaverse Already Here?

The medical metaverse already exists. The BBC reported in early August that a team of international surgeons had been training in VR for months before successfully separating two three-year-old twins with conjoined heads. Bernardo and Arthur Lima, two Brazilian twins, had to undergo seven surgeries after being born with vital veins in their brains shared.

VR programs enabled surgeons from all over the world to collaborate in virtual spaces to plan and carry out unprecedented procedures. Not only surgeons are taking advantage of this current opportunity in healthcare.

Doctors are treating patients suffering from phobias such as acrophobia by placing them in virtual environments to challenge their fears. Doctors are also using VR to treat patients suffering from mental disorders such as OCD and social anxiety. Future healthcare professionals are also being trained with immersive hardware, as computer-generated worlds provide a full 360° view of the human body. In addition to doctor training, digital experiences are improving the doctor-patient relationship. “We see how remote doctor visits can be improved to provide a more immersive experience within a virtualized provider space.”

The Medical Metaverse’s Potential Future

All of this work is being done before the full-fledged vision of a metaverse has even been realized, so it appears likely that it will continue to grow. These new opportunities will seek to expand on what has already been accomplished with VR and AR. “Through the power of immersive collaboration, doctors and surgeons will be able to leverage the benefits of the connected ecosystem and gain expertise in the metaverse.” Medical students in the metaverse could be learning with “interactive holographic projections” and “will be able to dive deeper into human physiology.”

Several companies are already vying for the chance to provide those services. Tech startups are partnering with large healthcare companies to bring AR- and VR-based medical training to market. Johnson & Johnson, for example, partnered with Osso VR in 2020 to distribute approximately 200 Oculus Quest headsets to surgeons across the United States. Spineology, a spinal surgery device manufacturer, collaborated with Ghost Productions, a VR surgical simulation developer, to integrate VR-based training for its sales teams. Spineology is reportedly training sales representatives on their devices in order to increase engagement with medical providers.

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