5 Ways Metaverse will Shape the Clinical and Learning Experience in Healthcare?
Updated: Nov 13, 2021
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Since Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook switched its name to Meta, and Microsoft and Dropbox publicly shared their passion for this evolutionary concept. Folks in healthcare are wondering, "What is the Metaverse?", "Will it impact us in the healthcare system?".
In the next 7 minutes, this blog will take you to a metaverse experience in healthcare. Here we go...
We will certainly not wake up one day and find ourselves in an illusionary world. Metaverse will be a gradual evolution of our society in the next 10 years. Just like the television penetrated our lives, and then the internet impacted the way we live, followed by the smartphones that changed the way we interact (facebook, Instagram, tiktok), shop (amazon, etsy, ebay), eat (doordash, ubereats) and travel (uber, airbnb). Metaverse will likely be this slow transition of our society where we will crave to spend some part of our lives in a virtual world or in a hybrid augmented reality, with our virtual existence in the shape of a 3D character that will be a true reflection of us in this new universe, called the metaverse. The definition of metaverse is a fictional 3D virtual world.
Let us dive deep in what metaverse will do to the way we practice medicine.
1. Doctors and nurses whose specialties rely on verbal interactions rather than procedural interventions will be the first to adapt to this new style of living. Just like the past 50 years saw the internet and phone gradually change the way we communicate with each other in this world, the metaverse will slowly change the way psychiatrists, therapists, medical pain specialists, sleep doctors, counselors interact with their patients. I am pretty sure that someone with diabetes will have their original blood glucose and heart rate measured by the fitbit like devices being worn in real lives, will show up besides their virtual character in the clinic room. This will be a very fascinating way of patient interaction. Eventually, we will get used to it. Just like our parents got used to using facebook and uber.
2. The metaverse, which some people confuse with facebook meta or Zuckerberg’s metaverse, will not be just one website or app created by Facebook or Microsoft. Metaverse will be a world of opportunities, where human beings will have an option to exist in a virtual 3D form – VR or AR - if they choose to. Nike and all other brands will have their stores in that virtual world and people will be buying – yes paying metaverse crypto – to buy merchandise, properties and cars. Microsoft has shared the idea that in future some of their leadership meetings will happen with the attendees being in their homes, but each attendee will have a virtual character who will be present in a virtual meeting room with all the other attendees. Each attendee will be able to see the others, listen to each other, discuss and solve problems and come with newer ideas and plans. What the real person will speak sitting on their couches is what their virtual character will speak in that virtual meeting room. It is inevitable that this is how hospitals, clinics and other healthcare entities will choose to have meetings either in completely virtual or augmented reality arenas.
3. If you are still scratching your head, you should ask your son or daughter or someone less than 14 years of age on what Roblox is. Hear them out and you will understand why the idea of metaverse is so powerful. With 10s of millions of our new generation already enjoying these games online where there virtual character is roaming on the streets, interacting with other strangers in daycare and stores, metaverse is already here conceptionally. Imagine as a doctor or a nurse, you are wearing a white coat but its not exactly you but your virtual ‘twin’ if I may say, who is evaluating a virtual patient (represented by a real patient in his or her virtual form) in a virtual reality clinic (clinic that you pay a rent to ensure you have a presence in the metaverse). Just like you do now, you are doing the same thing in that virtual clinic: you are asking questions about patient’s medical history or teaching them on how they will take their pills or counseling them on how to prevent the next anxiety attack. And here is the best part, you will have a couple of virtual students (who also are representations of two real medical students sitting on their couch in their homes with their laptop and VR goggles) learning from you on how to take care of patients. Yes, the third thing you need to know is medical education will have hybrid models leveraging tele-education, telehealth, metaverse and live procedural cases using augmented reality.
4. Medical conferences will most likely experiment with both live and metaverse sessions. People will have nice inperson dinners on the opening night followed by a session that they will attend the next morning from their hotel rooms. Large conference rooms – all virtual, with the speaker and attendees showing up in their virtual form. Men wearing Armani’s suits and women carrying Gucci’s purses all bought virtually through the virtual plaza on the second floor of the virtual Hyatt where the conference was organized. Tickets will still be expensive. And as much as you are nodding your head while reading this, that you will not waste your cash in attending such a conference, I assure you, you will spend your money and you will attend it! Just like you are carrying a 1000$ smartphone today that you thought you will never upgrade to.
5. You are either very excited by now, or kind of worried. Don’t be. Because just like the internet that brought convenience, fun and ease in our lives along with scams, porn and physical laziness, the metaverse will bring many positive things along as well. The fifth most important impact of metaverse on the healthcare system will be on our patients hospitalized or who live in nursing home or rehab centers. Metaverse will allow many of these patients – just like Roblox allows more than 7 million kids in the US to experience a virtual existence in addition to their original life – to experience interactions with their families, friends and strangers by putting their virtual 3D glasses and may be having a laptop in front of them. I see them having the times of their lives, without having to leave the hospital bed or their nursing home.
As doctors and nurses, just like everyone else, we will see metaverse impact our lives within the next 5-10 years. There will be pros and cons to it. I will embrace it and Id like our healthcare system to embrace it too. I have a feeling it will be a good thing for us. What do you think? Do you think there are other ways, metaverse will impact the healthcare system?
Atif Zafar, MD is a physician, entrepreneur, and the author of the book "Why Doctors Need To Be Leaders". He can be reached at email@example.com.
The physician-leadership book is available on Amazon: www.atifzafar.com/book.