The metaverse has entered the OR: augmented reality systems can help doctors better prepare for operations and perform them with greater precision
The metaverse—a digital space that links the virtual and physical worlds—is coming. It enables people to gather and interact virtually with the sense that they are all in the same place. Many healthcare providers have already discovered its potential, and are generating considerable sales in it. Porsche Consulting The Magazine spoke with three experts about the opportunities and risks in the new healthcare metaverse.
The term “metaverse” is attributed to science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. In his 1992 novel Snow Crash, the protagonists have adventures not only in the analogue world but also as avatars in a digital space called the metaverse. It’s nothing new for thinkers and doers to be influenced by authors of science fiction. In fact, that stands to reason. “Everything that’s still fiction in one moment can become reality in the next,” says Dr. Martha Böckenfeld, Dean and Partner at Zurich’s Metaverse Academy, in an interview with Porsche Consulting The Magazine.
But what will the healthcare metaverse be like in the future? Will it take the form of a “digital village,” in the words of Adam Gründer, an advisor for the BPV Group? That is, will it simply be a platform where all healthcare providers are represented? And where patients can find contacts and solutions for all their healthcare needs?
According to Gründer, it will take at least a decade before a scenario of that type becomes a reality—and his forecast could well be on the optimistic side. It also raises the question of who will control the platform. “As far as German consumers are concerned, it’s surely better to have sensitive healthcare data stored on servers in their own country than with international tech companies,” he notes. People in countries with more secure and perhaps also more tech-friendly data protection frameworks than Germany might well have similar ideas. If so, could this preclude an international solution for a comprehensive platform? In Böckenfeld’s opinion the international idea remains viable, as long as a neutral organization instead of a company is charged with controlling the data platform.
For Josef Bartl, data protection is of crucial importance, but discussion about who will control this type of platform is premature. Vice President for Corporate Strategy and M&A at Brainlab, Bartl thinks an “all-encompassing parallel world in the healthcare sector” simply doesn’t make sense for the near future. In his view, the healthcare metaverse is defined not by a large and shared space but rather by the support for specific problems that comes from merging the analogue world with data. “That process opens up new opportunities,” he says. “New ways to consume information, interact with data models, and collaborate with other people in a data-supported setting.”
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