By Jyothsna Chandran
Metaverse has gained ‘eye-catching’ attention in literal sense since the concept promises to leapfrog the confluence of physical world into an evolved virtual space to eventually deliver an immersive end-user experience. And it is this emotions-grabbing, near-to real life experience that is pegged to redefine the way we live.
Metaverse is already making waves in sectors such as retail, banking, automobile which have been early adopters to lap up the opportunity. While all these sectors have primarily leveraged metaverse to address the evolution of end-user experience, there is one domain where metaverse can play the role of empowerment and go beyond the experience bit. And it is here that healthcare sector finds a special consideration.
Let us walk through on key aspects of healthcare services delivery where metaverse can play a revolutionary role.
Patient engagement is largely kept away from the mainstream conversations around the field of healthcare. However multiple research over the years reflect that it is one of the prime considerations in ensuring that patients get complete and adequate healthcare attention without leaving the treatment in between. Some of the reported challenges in ensuring seamless patient engagement all throughout, include limited appointment availability, clinical shortages and transportation barriers. Consider this situation on the backdrop of 1:834 doctor to patient ratio prevailing in India and the magnitude of the patient engagement problem stares at us.
With use of metaverse, however a paradigm shift can be triggered in patient engagement part of healthcare value chain. The challenges outlined above can be overcome by a metaverse ecosystem that can enable a clinic-like experience over virtual world at a mutually convenient proposition involving both the healthcare practitioner and the patient.
One of the glaring latent needs of patients evidently points out to having a personalized care and attention while undergoing treatment. In a country like India, where the overall healthcare infrastructure is still at a build-up stage, the aspect of personalisation leaves a lot to be desired. In recent years, digital technologies have helped address this issue by use of concepts such as AI and ML. However there is still a scope to enhance the personalisation quotient, which can now be addressed by metaverse. It does so by leveraging the digital twin of the physical world and customising it to the requirements of each patient. In fact the concept can be extended to have a framework of virtual hospitals where each patient gets a specific and unique attention aligned to the treatment under consideration.
Telemedicine for remote locations
Reach of healthcare in interiors and remote part of India has been an age-old problem. Through metaverse a virtual hospital can be conceptualised that can provide remote-location counselling and healthcare attention through an interface. With 5G expected to penetrate deep, the delivery of telemedicine-based healthcare services over metaverse platform will give an unprecedented enriched experience.
For healthcare service providers, such an evolution can result in opening up of new revenue streams by utilising the existing infrastructure. For patients in remote locations, this can serve as a boon particularly on context of ongoing pandemic issues where easy access to healthcare facilities has assumed prime importance.
While multiple use cases can be applied in the healthcare sector leveraging metaverse, legal considerations and implications should be kept in mind. When the user performs various activities using metaverse different types of data is generated, including those which are personal and sensitive. Organizations dealing with sensitive information must ensure there is a fine line differentiating between legal and personal boundaries; and comply to necessary rules. The second consideration is how government bodies will frame guidelines for medical devices (smart glasses, VR headsets, etc.). FDA in the US has formed the Medical Extended Reality Program to facilitate this, however in India there are no specific regulations in India that currently oversee metaverse. It will be best if both government and organizations work hand in hand to ensure guidelines are drafted as it will be difficult to play a catchup game when there is a higher level of user dependency with metaverse.
However, the onset of metaverse has emerged at the perfect time for the healthcare industry. While there has been an increased impetus on healthcare for all in the new normal world, it will be metaverse that can empower all to reap the benefits of a customised, engaging, evolved end-user experience enabled healthcare sector.
By Jyothsna Chandran, Delivery Manager, Digital Engineering (Zuci Systems)
(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person / organisation directly or indirectly.)