The metaverse is poised to be the biggest thing to happen to businesses since the advent of internet. While full integration into our daily lives is still a few years away, the metaverse will revolutionize the way we interact and conduct business.
An oversimplified definition: the metaverse is a persistent and immersive digital world. Users navigate as a digital equivalent of themselves and can interact with other users, irrespective of their geographic location. In contrast, virtual reality historically has been focused on re-creating immersive environments for the user, but they are single-user focused. The use cases around the metaverse are clear for social interactions – concerts, sports, and gaming are obvious and easy to think about. Beyond those, though, there are really no boundaries.
Medicine is not immune to this revolution. In the not-too-distant future, we expect that comprehensive healthcare in the metaverse will be not only feasible but will also become the norm.
There are some initial hurdles to work out. The metaverse is based on blockchain technology. Blockchain is decentralized, which is both a strength and something that we need to overcome. The high level of security needed to have conversations involving protected health information or HIPAA compliance is not yet in place. However, we should not wait to start adopting this technology, and we just need to be thoughtful about when and how to start.
As with all technological advances, the reality of business and medicine in the metaverse is barreling towards us. It is up to us to be ready to embrace it and create incredibly robust and meaningful experiences for healthcare professionals (HCPs), payers, caregivers, and patients by being forethoughtful.
As the security system is being worked out, how can and should we start to leverage this technology in secure and compliant ways? The answer, “private” metaverses that allow for a group of pre-defined users to specifically share created, persistent, and safe immersive virtual spaces.
In the same way that there was a learning curve when we all moved to online meeting platforms, there will be a learning curve as we enter the metaverse/private metaverse/shared virtual reality space. However, as it is inevitable to be the future, it is important to become acclimated now.
Top 3 Immediate Use Cases You Will See in The Next 6 Months to a Year
The ability to share thought leadership, allow for scientific exchange, and engage in thoughtful, robust discussions is an important aspect of our industry. Within the year, we will see these happening in private metaverses. As congresses moved to a virtual format because of COVID-related limitations on live participation, the online experience felt like an administrative exercise with several click-throughs, searches, and multiple sign-ins. Content basically became “paper behind glass” and consumption was only optimal when viewed on some devices. One of the biggest things we still miss today is the ability to socialize and interact with our peers. The metaverse offers the possibility to swing the pendulum closer to a live interaction in an intuitive manner. Healthcare professionals, scientists, and industry leaders will be able to access an immersive pre-defined world via a headset. These industry anchoring discussions can happen in just the same way they did before COVID (less the travel, hotel stays, and such).
Whether we are talking about Continuing Medical Education (CME), sharing the latest data with HCPs or training on complex medical therapies or surgical devices, portals to learning will be a big draw for HCPs to the metaverse. We will be able to create virtual reality (VR) education – which has been around for some time – but the addition of patient and peer interaction are the game changers.
Surgeons commonly attend animal labs for training on complex surgical devices. Physicians might attend educational or certification sessions on a new therapy or treatment protocol. Truly immersive simulations could create a new method for this practice – saving time, travel, reaching a larger group of healthcare professionals, and curtailing the use of animal labs for surgical training with the associated ethical concerns.
The metaverse (and private metaverses) allow for truly hands-on, scenario based, and application driven learning. (Gamification obviously has a huge opportunity here, also – but that is a whole topic in and of itself!) We will be able to immerse learners in true-to-life scenarios and create opportunities to learn, coach, share, and grow in a safe place. We all know how powerful it is to bring learners together and allow them to learn from each other – this technology allows us not only to bring learners together but also place them in “real-life” scenarios. As a result, you will be able to create incredibly impactful learning and coaching opportunities. Individuals and teams will also be able to complete immersive experiences to gain insights into the patient’s or physician’s journey to create solutions that address the challenges.
There is another perk to having learning happen within the metaverse – it gets our learners acclimated to operating in this new space. Within the next year to 2, we will see virtual detailing grow into metaverse detailing and interactions with our customers. Getting comfortable with the technology and interacting with peers now will allow your learners to be ahead of the curve.
Behind these 3 immediate use cases, the roadmap is long and exciting – we will see an expansion of omnichannel marketing, HCP engagement, HCPs practicing medicine in the public domain metaverse, and incredibly robust patient education to name a few.
The next few years will see a score of advances, and it is incumbent on all of us to stay abreast of the changes and help move our industry forward into the future.