Traditional telehealth is no longer the future of health care

Healthcare data

Telehealth has taken the medical world by storm. Hospitals rapidly adopted these remote technologies out of necessity amid COVID-19, but it quickly became apparent that their potential goes even further.

Telehealth accounted for less than 1 percent of total health care volume before COVID, but it quickly became the norm. However, it won’t be the future of medicine. More than 70 percent of physicians are motivated to increase their telehealth use, and new technologies are emerging, so this practice is evolving. Here’s a look at how metaverse technologies are transforming the future of telemedicine.

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Immersive Virtual Visits Through VR

Today, 95 percent of health care facilities offer virtual care to their patients. In most cases, that looks like Zoom calls between doctors and patients to diagnose or offer health advice remotely. Virtual reality (VR) will bring these parties closer together, enabling more immersive and helpful remote visits.

VR could let patients feel like they’re in an actual doctor’s office and give physicians a more in-depth, 360-degree view of their remote patients. That way, they could interact with and inspect people beyond the limits of what a static camera can show. Telehealth visits would start to look a lot more like in-person ones, and they’ll reflect the same accuracy.

Remote Treatment

VR and related technologies could go even further than just improving remote diagnoses. Doctors could also treat patients despite being miles away. This has already started to take shape in the realm of mental health, where doctors use immersive VR experiences to treat anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress.

VR and other remote technologies could also help treat physical conditions. Physical therapy patients could use VR to go through at-home recovery exercises guided by virtual assistants. Doctors could use VR to gain a first-person view while operating surgery robots. This would give more people access to leading medical care, regardless of location.

Patient Digital Twins

Another rising possibility in telehealth is creating digital twins of patients. Today, manufacturers and construction companies use these digital recreations of real-life objects to simulate various scenarios to find optimal workflows. Digital twins could work similarly in health care, letting doctors run virtual treatments to predict how actual patients might react.

Studies have found that digital twins provide more accurate measurements that help dentists account for variations in facial structure. Similarly, these virtual doubles could give doctors a more cohesive picture of someone’s health history and environment, informing more effective treatment. Others could simulate how different drugs might interact with a patient’s specific biology.

All these tests and measurements can happen remotely. Doctors could make far more accurate diagnoses and suggestions during telehealth visits with a digital twin to interact with.

Gamification of Health Apps

Telehealth could also begin including gamified health apps. Connected devices like smart wristbands could monitor patient nutrition and activity and use that data to set goals and reward patients for meeting them. That makes getting healthier more engaging, and it could happen with minimal intervention from medical staff.

VR and augmented reality (AR) could enable virtual health classes. On top of having a virtual instructor to guide their movements, users could engage with other people remotely like an in-person class. This could create a healthy spirit of competition to motivate people to achieve their health goals.

Metaverse Technologies Could Transform Health Care

Metaverse technologies like VR, AR, digital twins and artificial intelligence (AI) have gained a lot of popularity in entertainment circles. That’s not where their utility ends, either. These innovations could join telehealth to unlock a new era in patient care.

Next-gen telemedicine could make health care more accessible, engaging and effective. The world could become a healthier place as new possibilities open and more organizations implement these technologies.

Image Credit: everything possible / Shutterstock

Devin Partida writes about AI, apps and technology at ReHack.com, where she is Editor-in-Chie

Author: Martha Meyer