A healthy approach to the metaverse
The metaverse is still in its early stages of development and the initial focus has been on the gaming sector. But other sectors, such as healthcare are developing advances in treatment and user experiences that will transform the market.
Metaverse and healthcare in tandem
There is already an ongoing move towards digital healthcare, which enables patients and healthcare professionals to view, share, exchange, create, or otherwise interact with digital content. In practice, it means the ability to do things such as make appointments online, provide consultations by video conferencing, and maintain patient files digitally and in the cloud.
The metaverse moves things on and offers a more interactive experience. It uses virtual reality, augmented reality and/or merged reality to create a fully synthetic or enhanced physical experience.
So, how does this play out in practice? Well, let’s take a few examples. In 2020, EndeavorRX became the first virtual reality game to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration as a prescribed treatment for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Increasingly, healthcare professionals are exploring how virtual reality games could help to treat other conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Metaverse technology is also breaking new ground in the operating theatre. One example is xvision, which is an augmented reality surgical navigation system. The headset projects CT scan images on to the surgeon’s retina, enabling them to maintain their focus on the patient during surgery and avoid the need to look back and forth at a screen during the operating procedure.
Money in a healthy metaverse
Metaverse technologies might not yet be the common staple of the digital health market, but they are gaining traction quickly. There’s been $198m in funding for US digital health startups integrating VR or AR technologies in 2021, more than double that of 2020.
There is a lot of interest in the patent and trademark status of these technologies and the licenses in place to use them.
The importance of this protection in the healthcare market was underscored recently by CVS Health. It wants to be recognised as the first pharmacy in the metaverse and has made an application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to trademark its logo and the activities of its online store.
The healthcare metaverse future is largely unknown
As the healthcare metaverse expands, so do the risks. We don’t know everything, but we can prepare for as much as we can. Healthcare companies will need to protect the proprietary and licensed technology and products they are using in this space, as well as the patients they are attending to. The competition will be fierce and access to insurance protection and expertise will be increasingly valuable.