The promise and uncertainty of healthcare in the metaverse

There have been more than 400 healthcare patents filed in the metaverse as people look to the virtual reality platform to improve the healthcare industry, yet the platform is still underdeveloped, Politico reported Aug. 24. 

According to IFI Claims, a Connecticut company that tracks intellectual property, IBM, Microsoft, Medtronic, Siemens and Chinese telehealth firm Ping An have filed for healthcare patents in the metaverse, but experts say the metaverse's place in healthcare is still vague.

Where experts see the metaverse helping healthcare:

  • Medical training: Using VR in medical training is already being put into practice. Johns Hopkins surgeons used augmented reality headsets to perform two back surgeries and medical schools are using virtual cadavers to teach students anatomy.

  • Mental health therapy: According to the article, mental health treatment is the most well-documented use of virtual reality. Research has shown that virtual reality can help patients who have anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias as the technology allows patients to confront or work through triggers in a simulated environment.

  • Home health: Companies such as healthcare monitoring company Vinya Intelligence are using sensors and cameras to track the health of older adults at home. The company has applied for a patent for technology that detects patient decline.

Despite the promise, experts worry the metaverse may be out of the realm of FDA control. 

According to the report, the FDA has a framework for vetting virtual reality, augmented reality, digital therapeutics and artificial intelligence, but HIPAA doesn't extend beyond clinicians' offices. 

This could lead to metaverse collecting more data about patients. 

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