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Merging worlds: Healthcare in the Metaverse

Merging worlds: Healthcare in the Metaverse

The talk of the (virtual) town

It seems inescapable. The talk on the streets — no matter which street you’re on — is all about Web 3.0. Blockchain this, AI that. But it’s the metaverse that’s the rising star of the World Wide Web’s third iteration. And while the metaverse is making its way to the top, you have the opportunity to stake a claim in the virtual world now.

Don’t worry, we’ll dive deeper into what this means for your organization, but first, a quick rundown of what’s what:

  • Similarly to the internet’s third generation, Web 2.0 has decentralization at its core. Although 3.0 is quickly approaching, we are still living in the 2.0 era. Its main identifier is the ability for anyone and everyone to contribute to the internet through social media.
  • Web 3.0 is the third evolution of the internet, centered around decentralization and developing apps in the blockchain. When you hear the term Web 3.0, think cryptocurrency, NFTs, and artificial intelligence. Essentially, if it feels like the future, it’s Web 3.0.
  • In the simplest terms, the metaverse is a collection of uniquely crafted virtual worlds, designed to provide highly immersive, experiential, and interactive experiences. There, people can interact with one another — as well as with objects and assets — in a seamless, fully interoperable, highly composable way.

Although one day the metaverse will function as the real world’s digital twin, it’s currently limited by the beginning stages of hardware. Currently, the metaverse is accessible through large, clunky headsets, but give it about 10 years, and wearable tech will look more like your favorite pair of Warby Parker spectacles. But while we wait for the full takeoff into Web 3.0, mastering 2.0 is a necessity.

How do we step into the future of healthcare technology?

You may be thinking the best course of action is to jump headfirst into the metaverse pool, but remember: patience is a virtue. Because you can’t truly make a splash in Web 3.0 until you know you’ve done 2.0 right. Stop and ask yourself some important questions: Have you established a social media presence that helps keep patients connected with the latest and greatest happenings at your hospitals? How are you utilizing tools available to you now to create a seamlessly interactive experience for your patients? Are your websites optimized for SEO? Are they equipped with Find a Doctor, Find a Location, and Telehealth features that offer a seamless user experience? And most importantly, are you prioritizing the security of health data as highly as you would with blockchain tech? 

Web 2.0 is functioning as a foundation for the next phase of the digital world, which means that what’s important here will be equally important in the metaverse. We know mastering your internet presence can feel overwhelming at times, but we’re here to help. After all, nobody knows Web 2.0 quite like we do.

Crawl. Walk. Run to the Metaverse.

The Metaverse can seem quite daunting when it comes to practical applications for your healthcare organization. So, how do you get there? Baby steps. Here are some meaningful opportunities to support patients and bolster your organization that are possible today or in the very near future.

  • Training and onboarding. Hospitals and health systems across the country are dealing with critical labor shortages. Imagine a world where you can send new and prospective employees an AR/VR headset that gives them an immersive experience of what it’s like working for your organization. That world is possible for you and your brand today. A virtual training environment is also a more efficient and cost-effective way to get team members up to speed than traditional, in-person onboarding. And if you’re worried about the price tag, think of it this way: Today’s current headset hardware costs about a third of what an iPhone does. And the average employer spends about $4,000 to hire a new employee.
  • Cultivating partnerships. Go from IRL to URL with a little help from some friends. For example, Pfizer Brazil and Ogilvy partnered with Grand Theft Auto to incentivize COVID-19 vaccination. Recipients of at least one vaccine dose were given access to a full health bar within the Grand Theft Auto RolePlay world, and the game even featured virtual OOH advertisements promoting the vaccine. 
  • Utilizing telespace. The next iteration of virtual visits may expand the world of possibilities by bringing physicians and patients closer together in a more meaningful way. Imagine if the specialist best qualified to deal with a particular condition lived in a different city, state, or country than a patient – they could still provide care by simply putting on a VR headset and meeting their patients in the metaverse.
  • Theraputic VR. Doctors have already begun prescribing VR games to treat conditions like brain fog, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). VR exposure therapy is already well on its way to becoming a conernstone for behavioral therapy and may help patients take the needed steps, in conjunction with a therapist, to help overcome their personal struggles.

Get in on the ground floor, master Web 2.0, and start small. Paving the way to Web 3.0 is as easy as that. Even though the full potential of the metaverse seems ages away, the time to make your virtual ambitions a reality is now. How have you begun planning for the possibilities the metaverse can bring to the healthcare space? We’d love to hear your perspective!

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