Will Your Next Doctor’s Appointment Be in the Metaverse?

The healthcare industry has taken large hits in the past two years, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. From burnt-out workers to over-filled hospitals, the industry needs to make important changes in order to create success and productive growth. One of the changes that has proven significant success is telehealth. Before the pandemic, only 43% of healthcare facilities practiced telehealth. After the pandemic, the percentage rose to 90%. Telehealth has become a popular trend due to all medical services being online and over the phone, so any individual can get the medical help they need from the comfort of their home. Telehealth has also been shown to be beneficial for doctors and nurses as well because they can work from home and avoid more burnout. But telehealth may be only a transitory phase, as healthcare could be fully integrated into a future metaverse.

Background: Virtual Healthcare in the Metaverse

In a new study published in the Journal of Metaverse, Futurist Dr. Jane Thomason from the Center of Blockchain Technology at University College London discusses what a metaverse healthcare system may look like. Thomason, a co-founder of the British Blockchain and Frontier Technology Association, predicts that the rise of the metaverse age will have a significant impact on healthcare. In the study, Thomason suggests that the Metaverse can help create immersive training for doctors and nurses with virtual reality or augmented reality surgeries and other procedures to practice with. Augmented and Virtual reality can also help students learn how to better interact with patients, getting hands-on learning in an easier and more accessible way.

Analysis: Metaverse Healthcare could be More Comforting than a Phone Call

Like telehealth, a metaverse healthcare system would be safer and less invasive for many individuals, helping to stop the spread of viruses on other diseases. Individuals may feel more trusting in augmented reality than using telehealth, as they can interface with a virtual doctor or nurse when relaying a problem. This allows them to feel more in control of their situation, especially if they’re experiencing a scary medical issue. As many patients have anxiety and may not feel comforted by merely a phone call from a doctor, a metaverse healthcare system may better assuage these anxieties, and allow patients to maintain comfort in their homes. A metaverse system may also increase customer care for patients, as they feel more taken care of than having a mere phone call with a doctor.

Outlook: The Future of Healthcare is Trending Virtual

Not only can the metaverse provide comfort for many patients, but it can also save the healthcare industry a significant amount of money. With virtual surgeries, the cost of supplies, like cadavers, significantly decreases. As with telehealth, metaverse healthcare could also cut down on operational costs, as staff could work more from home. While things like prescriptions or surgeries would no longer be effective in a metaverse setting, other processes could be made more efficient in the metaverse, helping the healthcare industry to create more sustainable practices for their staff.

Kenna Castleberry is a staff writer at the Debrief and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). She focuses on deep tech, the metaverse, and quantum technology. You can find more of her work at her website: https://kennacastleberry.com/