5/13/2022 8:06:18 PM
Medicine in the era of the Metaverse
When was the last time you visited a doctor’s office? Have you noticed the detective pattern of questions that your doctor asked?
Doctors are disease investigators trying to diagnose your disease via asking a couple of targeted questions about the disease circumstances in order to select relevant medical testing, which leads to a timely and accurate diagnosis (1).
Moreover, doctors require visual inspection and physical examination of their patients to understand what is happening.
What if this could happen while you’re at home and just using your virtual reality equipment to connect with your doctor?
The social use of the internet has exponentially burst in the past two decades. For example, from 2005 to 2009 participating in social networking sites quadrupled (2). Internet use has recently evolved into a new sphere dubbed the Metaverse. The word Metaverse is a combination of Meta (Greek prefix meaning post, after, or beyond) and the universe, which technically means a post-reality universe, a perpetual and persistent multiuser environment merging physical reality with digital virtuality (3). The three central technological pillars of Metaverse are artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) (4). VR uses amplified and specialized multisensory (vision, sound, touch, position) equipment such as immersion helmets and VR headsets to create an artificial environment similar to the physical world. Augmented reality (AR) focuses on spatially merging the material with the virtual worlds, meaning enhancing the interactive functionality of the physical environment (objects) with digital inputs and virtual elements (3). AR uses smartphones, computers, tablets, cameras, glasses, and VR headsets. Professor Chunxue Bai and colleagues defined Metaverse in Medicine as the medical Internet of Things (MIoT) facilitated using AR and/or VR glasses (5). The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of wireless, interrelated, and connected digital (objects) devices that can communicate (collect, send, and store data) over a network without requiring voluntary human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction (6).
It’s clear that the Metaverse is well capable of interconnecting physical and virtual objects, including spaces and objects used in medical service delivery processes in real-time. MIoT does not intend to replace traditional medical service delivery primarily, but to augment it, as well as create alternative pathways that can virtually perform physical functions as efficiently as possible in the absence or inconveniencing circumstances of traditional means. Firstly, Metaverse will improve the efficiency and experience of telemedicine (remote delivery of medical care) to patients and among doctors. The Metaverse will enable the augmented virtual presence of patients and doctors in a virtual clinical setting equipped with sensory objects of teleportation in real time. This setting will allow some aspects of physical examination like remote body inspection, touch, auscultation, and collection of vital signs. Metaverse will enable human surgeons and surgeon-robots to perform complex medical procedures virtually, with great precision and visualization.
Before the full realization of Metaverse in Medicine, issues relating to ethics, confidence and acceptability, privacy and security, interoperability, standardization and remuneration, data storage, and control and ownership should be addressed. Healthcare leaders should ensure governing policies that ensure transparency in managing patient information, safety and security.
Written By: Rangarirai Makuku
Poster Design: Alireza Bagheri
1.Muhrer JC. The importance of the history and physical in diagnosis. Nurse Pract. 2014;39(4):30-5; quiz 6.
2.Chou W-yS, Hunt YM, Beckjord EB, Moser RP, Hesse BW. Social Media Use in the United States: Implications for Health Communication. J Med Internet Res. 2009;11(4):e48.
3.Mystakidis S. Metaverse. Encyclopedia. 2022;2(1).
4.Metaverse: The next frontier for Healthcare 4.0 01 Apr, 2022 [5/13/2022]. Available from: https://www.netscribes.com/metaverse-in-healthcare/.
5.Yang D, Zhou J, Chen R, Song Y, Song Z, Zhang X, et al. Expert consensus on the metaverse in medicine. Clinical eHealth. 2022;5:1-9.
6.Kelly JT, Campbell KL, Gong E, Scuffham P. The Internet of Things: Impact and Implications for Health Care Delivery. J Med Internet Res. 2020;22(11):e20135.