The metaverse has become the key content of future society, and the medical community is embracing it. For example, medical students receive education and training based on virtual reality or augmented reality, and a metaverse hospital has been opened where patients access medical service on an online platform.
However, health experts pointed out that just using a head-mounted display (HMD) and seeing avatars inside the monitor cannot be called a metaverse. For physicians to use the metaverse in actual patient care, they need more advanced technologies and institutional development.
On Wednesday, medical professionals gathered at the Health On conference to identify the state of the medical metaverse and proposed development strategies.
Park Chul-kee, professor of neurosurgery at Seoul National University Hospital, said the medical metaverse requires the advancement of interactive technologies. Park leads the Medical Metaverse Study Group (MMSG), recently launched by professors at SNU College of Medicine.
Park said the medical metaverse can only be achieved when people can communicate in a new layer of space and time created through the convergence of technologies including virtual reality, augmented reality, AI, telemedicine and the cloud.
When the virtual layer is interactively synchronized with reality, the medical metaverse will find the true meaning.
For this kind of communication and interaction, existing “one-sided” technologies need to be modified, Park said.
“We are not talking about a situation where patients follow a program made with digital therapies. Instead, we should create a patient-friendly program to reflect the reality of patients,” he said.
Beyond viewing video with an HMD or collecting basic health data, the medical community needs state-of-the-art devices such as “medical chairs” or “medical boxes” that provide quality information for diagnosis and treatment, Park added.
Professor Lee Byung-chul of Neurology at Hallym University’s Sacred Heart Hospital said the nation needs improvements in the reimbursement system if the medical metaverse provides truly effective medical care beyond the level of “guidance service”.
“For clinicians to deliver telemedicine and real health services through the metaverse, reimbursement is essential. But in reality, there are many institutional limitations,” Lee said.
Reimbursement requires medical quality, but the metaverse is above all a preventive approach to induce behavioral changes in patients. It is therefore difficult to decide how to fix the refund, he said.
“I hope the government can approach this issue more proactively,” he added.
Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital recently opened a metaverse children’s burn center, but it focuses on burn prevention education and pre-treatment education. The burn center aims to provide patient care, but institutional support is crucial to doing so, Lee said.
“Because most of the functions that hospitals intend to perform using the metaverse are ‘services,’ the medical metaverse does not grow any further,” Lee noted. “We need to think about how to reflect the difference in medical services, regulated by law, within the health system.”