Hey there folks – I write the Daily Metaverse, a daily news roundup of all things metaverse that sometimes also comes with my commentary on the news. I might be biased, but I think it’s the perfect way to keep up with all things metaverse! Today I’ve got some thoughts on healthcare in the metaverse – these are originally from my newsletter on Friday, July 8. If you find this interesting, I hope you’ll come subscribe to your daily dose of the metaverse. Today we’re starting things off with a review of current use cases for VR in healthcare that are either in practice or testing. When most folks think about VR, they think about video games, but the potential uses of an immersive digital experience go far beyond that. Let’s dive in and see how VR and the metaverse can help make people healthier.
In the 19th century, people stole corpses and sold them to medical schools for practice purposes. On the one hand, not great. On the other hand, there are probably more than a few people who survived surgery because their doctor had a chance to practice on a corpse.
Now, thankfully, we have systems that let people donate their bodies for science, so that sort of thing doesn’t happen (hopefully). Still, even if we’re getting bodies legally, there’s still a limited number… except in VR.
It’s not just the VR offers unlimited opportunities to view bodies and simulate surgery in healthcare – it will also offer the opportunity to work with bodies specifically tailored to doctors’ needs. If you’re dealing with a patient that has a rare form of cancer, you’re probably not going to be able to find a corpse with an identical tumor to look at before you try to do surgery. In VR, particularly as our tools for scanning and modeling tumors and the rest of the body improve, it’ll be increasingly possible for surgeons to prepare for surgery with an exact digital replica of what they’ll be seeing when they cut their patient open.
Practice isn’t the only benefit – the metaverse will also enable surgeons to bring in expertise in cases where it could really benefit a patient. A surgeon in a remote place wearing AR goggles could stream the surgery to a specialist, who could highlight points on the patient’s body via an AR overlay. This could be beneficial both in emergency situations where there’s no time to get a specialist to the patient as well as more generally for patients that don’t live near big cities with the best medical specialists – rather than have to fly somewhere to get care, a patient could see their local doctor, who could bring in the specialist remotely.
Feeling anxious? VR might just be the thing for that. One common way to treat fears is through exposure therapy – exposing the person to the thing they’re afraid of in a controlled environment, so they can allow their brain to get used to it and make it less fear-inducing. If you’re deathly afraid of spiders, that might mean starting with realistic-looking models of fake spiders in your therapist’s office.
There are lots of things that you might be fearful of that are difficult to replicate in your therapist’s office, though, and VR is the perfect tool to help address them. Afraid of crowds? A VR environment where you can slowly add people is going to be a lot easier and less likely to panic than just heading into a crowded mall. Tight spaces? Try sitting in increasingly smaller spaces in virtual reality instead of just getting into an elevator in real life. A plane? Start with a perfectly smooth ride and work your way up to some turbulence.
VR isn’t just for gaming – it’s a tool that really has the power to improve lives, and I look forward to seeing it continue to be used in healthcare.