The term “metaverse” – which we hear more and more often these days – is still esoteric in the general public. Often people only understand it as a vague reference to a fictional world beyond our reality.
But the metaverse doesn’t have to sound like science fiction. It actually holds promising potential to transform healthcare delivery for the better, according to a keynote talk by Mona Flores, nvidiaGlobal Head of Medical Artificial Intelligence, at MedCity Invest in digital health Conference in Dallas on Wednesday.
Flores identified the metaverse as an immersive network of connected virtual worlds, calling it “the three-dimensional evolution of the Internet.” At Nvidia, I helped build OmniverseThe company’s platform for building and running metaverse applications.
“[The metaverse] Today’s Internet web pages will expand to include 3D spaces and worlds,” Flores said. “And like the Internet, it will touch every industry out there, including healthcare.”
The metaverse is poised to disrupt various aspects of healthcare — Flores has identified workforce training, patient experience, healthcare facilities and medical manufacturing as the main areas to be excited about.
Take workforce training for example. In the metaverse, medical students can practice office visits and surgeries hundreds of times before having these encounters with real patients.
“No pilot has ever flown an aircraft prior to training in the simulators,” said Flores, a former cardiac surgeon.
In terms of patient experience, metaverse technologies can take hospital patients out of poor settings and move them Pretty much any environment they choose. The metaverse also has the potential to increase patients’ access to caregivers, and may one day allow them to interact with on-demand demand. Gods of physicians, who answer questions and provide medical advice based on a body of knowledge and factual data.
Entering the metaverse will help health care workers and patients feel more comfortable, according to Flores. For example, if the health system is building a new care ward, it can actually welcome staff to the site and allow them to go about what the space will look like long before construction is complete. Virtual reality can also allow patients and their families to tour the hospital and learn about the environment before they arrive for stay. This can have a huge impact down the road, and it’s a huge challenge when patients arrive on a hospital campus already worried about a condition they have.
Flores noted that Metaverse technologies could similarly help healthcare manufacturers. She said drug companies and medical device makers could digitally copy their brick-and-mortar facilities into the virtual world.
“It’s a complete virtual digital version of the factory or lab — including all of its assembly lines, machinery, and tools,” she said. “We can now use simulation to plan the layout of rooms and optimize the path inside this factory, from the width of the driveway to the size of the machines. You can also actually train the employees in this factory even before the doors to operations open.”
Although the portrait that Flores paints is captivating, her presentation was met with healthy skepticism. Two members of the audience expressed their main concern about the impact on workers given that technology is more and more getting things done better than humans.
In order to truly benefit from the metaverse, they said, it may seem that the US healthcare workforce needs to learn how to maneuver these technologies and gain a deep understanding of artificial intelligence, data science and engineering. If this is the case, it does not appear that the country as a whole is on the right path to educate its people in the manner required in the future. This can lead to a large group of unemployed and angry people. Flores disagreed.
Although metaverse technologies may displace a small percentage of healthcare workers, she believes that the expertise of these healthcare staff can be leveraged to fit into new roles and fill other healthcare positions, which could be a huge plus given the The scarcity of continuous work in the field of health care.
Flores also does not believe that engaging in the metaverse will require all health care workers to have a solid understanding of complex technology. She pointed to an example Cincinnati for kidswhich trained its staff to work in the new neonatal intensive care unit months before they entered the facility.
“The nurses were able to do it without any problem,” Flores said. They didn’t know any artificial intelligence. All they had to do was what they always did – nothing new but to put on a headset. “
Another concern people have about the metaverse is that it’s a mistake to focus on this shiny new thing when the country is still a long way from perfecting the basics of health care – keeping people healthy and ensuring widespread access to care. But Flores thinks it’s important to remember that the metaverse won’t integrate itself into healthcare overnight. It is a long journey that will take decades.
“We need to collect more data and put it together so that we know the lessons from every single doctor, researcher and engineer out there,” she said. “We’ll eventually be able to understand more about biology and we’ll be able to treat a patient specifically because of their disease, their genetic makeup, their environmental exposure, and what you have. We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there — probably not in my lifetime.”
Photo: metamorworks, Getty Images
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