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Want to improve healthcare? Step into the metaverse


November 14, 2022

If you haven’t yet learned about the metaverse, it’s time to take note. The metaverse is about to explode and could be an $800B market by 2024[1]. This next evolution of the internet is taking hold across industries, and healthcare is no exception. In fact, some are calling it the mediverse, as its promise for healthcare is transformational.

Let’s be clear, it is not a gaming solution or a pair of virtual reality glasses. The metaverse enables us to move beyond browsing to participating and/or inhabiting a shared experience that spans the spectrum of our real world to a fully virtual world—and in between. When we consider its effects, they are and will continue to be far-reaching, dramatically influencing healthcare access, experiences and outcomes.

81% of healthcare executives surveyed worldwide say that they think the metaverse will have a positive impact on their organizations.

The revolution has begun

Healthcare leaders are imagining how the metaverse can help reinvent care delivery as we know it. Accenture’s Digital Health Technology Vision 2022 found that 81% of healthcare executives surveyed worldwide say that they think the metaverse will have a positive impact on their organizations—nearly half said the impact will be “transformational” or “breakthrough.”

The potential transformation for healthcare is clear in several emerging use cases:

  • Immersive training: The metaverse puts the trainee into whatever environment they need to be in. Imagine virtual experiences that put providers into the shoes of the patient to help teach sensitivity and empathy. Simulated operating rooms can allow medical students to safely practice procedures and doctors can use digital twins of organs to simulate surgeries to see potential outcomes without putting a patient at risk.
  • Digital diagnostics: Through augmented reality, we can use movement, space and interaction to enable different types of diagnoses. For instance, by tracking eye movements, providers can identify certain neurological markers or spot eye conditions such as glaucoma.
  • Patient and caregiver wellness: Just as providers can learn in the metaverse, so can patients and caregivers. Immersive environments can help doctors to explain, and even show, disease states and treatment plans. These environments can help caregivers to learn how to care for a family member at home. Enhanced educational experiences can lead to better health literacy and stronger care plan compliance, which can ultimately improve outcomes.
  • Care planning and delivery: Immersive technologies help to simulate procedures, enabling the next evolution of care planning and procedural preparation. For example, Accenture worked with Microsoft to help revolutionize surgical medicine in Mexico and Latin America. With augmented reality, surgeons can see patient records, X-rays, CT and MRI scans during procedures. Data shared in real time can help clinicians during more routine situations, as well. RespondEye uses augmented reality to enable first responders to access live video and audio communication with remote physicians in real-time.
  • Virtual therapeutics: New digital therapies are using extended reality technologies to help patients with pain management, neurological disorders, behavioral health and their physical health. BehaVR immerses patients in virtual environments via an evidence-based platform, empowering people with lifelong coping skills and resources that extinguish stress, anxiety and fear.
  • Tokenization and interoperability: Web3, blockchain and other technologies allow users to securely own, share and manage patient, provider and payer data (e.g., digital health identity and record management, secure payments, rewards and incentives leveraging NFTs).

These use cases illustrate how healthcare organizations are beginning to push the boundaries of metaverse technologies to deliver novel clinical, operational and recreational experiences. But we know these technology-enabled healthcare experiences won’t take hold unless people embrace them.

People are ready for the metaverse in healthcare

We are learning just how much people want to take part in the metaverse. Our research across more than 3,000 people across the US, Canada and the United Kingdom found that 75% of respondents said they’d heard of the metaverse, but only 50% felt they understood what it was, suggesting room to grow in making applications of these technologies real and accessible. In assessing how the metaverse might be used across industry categories, 73% had definite or some interest in health and wellness, which was the highest rated category, on par with shopping and events.[2]

So we tested more than 16 healthcare metaverse use cases to get reactions. Our findings showed that the use cases people are most interested in include patient educationcare delivery and connectivity, such as meeting with friends and family from afar while in the hospital. Millennials (89%) and Gen Z (89%) are most open to opportunities from the metaverse—and this audience will represent an increasing proportion of those in need of healthcare as these generations age.

Taking the first steps into the metaverse

The metaverse is new to most and unfamiliar to many. However, this new wave of technology breakthroughs can be the launchpad that health organizations need as they strive to address the key challenges facing people today: access, experience and outcomes. 

But where do you begin in this new world of opportunity? Here are some ideas for how to get started.

Hunt for potential innovations. Explore the top challenges your organization is facing and consider how the metaverse continuum can help address these challenges. Whether you’re trying to increase care team capacity, support omnichannel strategies or improve prevention, the metaverse has answers. Choose the areas where you can pilot metaverse technologies now to create real value while the market evolves.

Build the technology backbone. As the metaverse evolves, so must the digital foundation that supports these emerging technologies. Plan for the future by understanding the longer-term infrastructure needs your organization has for cloud, data, interoperability and more. Begin modernizing to be ready for the innovations to come.

Prepare your people for the metaverse. Identify the digital skills your workers need to embrace the metaverse opportunity and offer the training they require to build digital fluency. When workers know how to use the technology in their day-to-day work, the value to the organization will only be greater.

The metaverse is here and it offers fertile ground for innovation in healthcare. Healthcare organizations have warning of what’s to come and can start making strategic investments today. It’s time to take your first steps into the metaverse to seize this opportunity to improve access, experience and outcomes for years to come.