Healthcare Author: Tommy Mi Jan 17, 2022 09:49 AM (GMT+8)

While there are many benefits to incorporating metaverse into the health industry, we must heed its adverse effects.

Wonderful health


Numerous healthcare applications have been created since Meta Platforms purchased Oculus and its virtual reality headset technology in 2014 for $2 billion. The health industry has been gradually digitizing for the past decades. With the emergence of AliHealth, JD Health, and many more, physical interaction is no longer necessary for some health-related problems. The health industry is looking to advance even further with the frontier technology of metaverse. On June 8, 2020, Johns Hopkins neurosurgeons performed the institution's first augmented reality (AR) surgeries on living patients. According to Timothy Witham, MD, using AR in the operating room felt like "having a GPS navigator in front of your eyes in a natural way, so you don't have to look at a separate screen to see your patient's CT scan." The surgeries were to relieve patients' chronic back pain, which is a problem that 8 out of 10 people experience in their lifetime. The successful surgeries assisted by AR demonstrate how much value AR and metaverse bring to the health industry. According to data, the metaverse market could reach USD 800 billion by 2024, a double-digit compound annual growth of 13.1% from the USD 478.7 billion in 2020. Furthermore, the global healthcare VR and AR market will reach USD 11.14 billion by 2025. With growing demand and evolving technology, the health industry is entering a new era of meta-health.

Narrowing the gap between education and reality

The health industry has one of the highest entry requirements due to the intensive training, and learning medical professional have to undergo. Metaverse is here to smooth the learning curve for entering the industry. Whether through AR, VR, or MR, virtual environment-assisted training is designed to be more efficient than traditional methods. New technologies can show untouched medical grounds that can accelerate the speed at which training and learning take place.

 Nursing, for example, is one profession that was accelerated by the pandemic in its needs. According to Kim Myung-ae, a professor at Seoul Women's University College of Nursing, nursing instructors face the challenge of teaching while their career is halted. As a result, nursing students are likely to feel a gap between their education and patient care when they begin working. To fix this, Kim proposed a program that "incorporates clinical field experience should be made so that learners can feel that there was no difference in clinical care after practicing this in the metaverse environment,'" through AR. Metaverse provides an easy solution for classrooms to incorporate patient care into learning. The combined education will ensure students to be fully prepared in both knowledge and clinical experience. In addition, metaverse allows interaction when pursuing medical courses online. And could make online learning a more effortless experience by helping people engage with each other.  

A study in 2021 was done to examine the effectiveness of medical education through MR, AR, and VR, realized as head-mounted devices (HMD). Out of the 27 studies conducted, 17 found VR HMD education engaging and salient, and 4 found the VR HMD intervention to be effective in a specific aspect of training. 4 studies found VR HMD to be only viable as an additional tool in training and education, and two studies indicated no effectiveness in the method of learning. The majority of studies (93%) demonstrated a positive impact of metaverse in healthcare education and training. Students could fail in a safe environment and practice until they completely master a skill. However, there are still much more grounds to cover to realize the potential of metaverse technology in education fully.  

Key benefits of meta-health

  • Communication

Metaverse technology is already breaking ground in the medical field. Microsoft HoloLens is already helping healthcare professionals make great strides in research and application. HoloLens recognize hand gestures for commands and can provide 3D holographic images of patients' specific body parts. Surgeons would also have access to patient's health records, collaboration with experts across borders, and other required data. In 2020, a surgeon in the US was able to assist a surgeon in Brazil to perform a shoulder arthroscopy using HoloLens. In times like today, HoloLens provides a convenient yet effective solution to collaboration among healthcare professionals.

  • Digital mapping

These technologies are sought to help professionals have improved accuracy in assessing patients and assist surgeons in operating under a more controlled environment. GIGXR, founded in 2019, is a SaaS platform that delivers extended reality learning and application for healthcare, education, and more. The company created the world's first 3D human anatomy atlas, HoloHuman, that uses full-size, immersive holograms to allow students and teachers to explore the human body with accurate visualization. GIGXR also created the HoloPatient, which simulates real-life scenarios with holograms of patients. Both of these products allow for hybrid or remote learning.  

  • Medical robotics

The surgical robotics industry is highly likely to impact healthcare in the metaverse significantly. Intuitive Surgical commands approximately 80% of the global market share in the surgical robotics market as the first mover. As of today, Intuitive has assisted in more than 8.5 million surgeries. The company's Da Vinci system uses robot-assist technologies to perform intricate surgeries, and the IRIS software helps surgeons assess a patient before an operation. The success of Intuitive drew much attention, and more companies began to get involved in the field. Medtronics (NYSE: MDT) acquired Mazor Robotics in 2018 in a USD 1.8 billion deal. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) acquired Auris Health, a robotic medical company that created the MONARCH Platform, in a USD 3.4 billion deal. The robotic medical market seamlessly aligns with healthcare needs in metaverse as the technology provides an alternative solution to the traditional approach to surgeries.  

  • Rising mental health awareness

Mental health is an issue that gained traction in recent years. 1 in 5 US adults experience some mental health issue, and 17% of youth aged 6 to 17 experience a mental health disorder. The rising popularity of metaverse, especially VR, could benefit those who usually wouldn't seek help or afford to. Although an increasing number of insurance companies offer better coverage for therapy and mental illness, receiving mental health care is still expensive. As a result, metaverse can make mental health treatment more accessible and cheaper. There is also a large market for meditation, therapy apps to be adapted into the metaverse. 

Challenges 

Metaverse brings many benefits to the health industry, but it also brings its own set of problems. The digital divide still poses a severe pain point even to this day. In 2021, there were 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide, 59.5% of the world's total population, meaning roughly 40% of the world's population remained offline. Implementing metaverse healthcare in regions without internet access is a complicated process requiring intense digital transformation. The sociopolitical implications also vary based on areas. 

1.png.png

Regulations present even more uncertainty to 'Meta-health.' Many Chinese firms have been jumping on to the bandwagon of metaverse since the topic began buzzing. However, the heat in the metaverse market drew much attention from policymakers. With the health industry under tight scrutiny, feasibility becomes a problem when combing two high-profile markets. 

More comprehensive metaverse application means more digital use, which can lead to addiction. The side effects of metaverse to our health must not be overlooked. In addition, products like medical robotics can have serious adverse effects, such as inadvertent cuts and tears, loss of blood, and other injuries to organs and tissues. The frontier technologies have contributed a great deal to the health industry, but they are far from ready to take over traditional methods in healthcare. 

Outlook

The health industry has generally been slow to accept and implement newer technologies for its concerns with human health. However, virtual technologies are looking promising as we enter a new era of healthcare. Dr. Lin in China was able to operate on his patient from 3,000 kilometers away with the help of 5G and medical robotics. While VR technologies have the potential for many aspects of the industry, most healthcare will likely revolve around AR. Both AR and VR are vital components of metaverse. While VR provides a more immersive experience with the virtual world, AR adds virtual elements to reality. AR can provide critical functions such as guiding surgeons in operating rooms, collaboration among professionals, holographic images, remote operations, education, and many more. Since the health industry requires hands-on activities, for the most part, the medical AR market will look to see the fastest growth among all components of metaverse. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


VRARVolcano eruptionvolcano