Metaverse hospital? Asian healthcare facilities explore future

metaverse hospital healthcare
Image by DragosCondrea | Bigstockphoto

IHH Healthcare in Malaysia, as well as Siloam International Hospital in Indonesia, are excited by the possibilities of virtual and augmented reality to improve their telemedicine services.

During the Nikkei Innovative Asia conference in Singapore, representatives from the two healthcare providers shared that they are considering how virtual and augmented reality might help them in the future, when patients may use the metaverse to assist with treatment and recovery.

While utilizing telemedicine to connect with patients who are suffering from COVID-19 mobility restrictions or reside in inaccessible regions, IHH Healthcare and Siloam have also begun to look at artificial intelligence and data analysis as a way to improve diagnosis and patient care.

Now, they believe that virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and the metaverse could become a valuable part of the future of telemedicine services.

Siloam’s deputy president director Caroline Riady cited the example of utilizing such technology in psychiatry and psychology, where patients would want to receive therapy at home.

“I think that these capabilities provide new methods to deliver care. One day we hope to have a metaverse hospital, and there are a lot of services that can be provided in that kind of form,” she said.

Linus Tham, IHH’s chief information officer, noted that rapidly changing digital technologies provide a significant opportunity to improve services and experiences in telemedicine and teleconsultation in the region.

“The combination of AR, VR, and the metaverse environment will give that unique engagement opportunity that we can have with our staff and with the patients,” Tham discussed at the Nikkei event. “I look at further transforming how health care is delivered. We’re not replacing bricks and mortar, but complementing [them],” he said.

According to Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company’s e-Conomy SEA 2021 analysis published in November 2021, health technology in Southeast Asia is continuing its ascent amid COVID-19, with increasingly buoyant investor interest and a record-breaking $1.1 billion investment during the first half of 2021 alone.

Woon Shung Toon, CEO of GetDoc and Founder of the Jireh Group, talked to Disruptive.Asia last year and highlighted the many disruptions and innovations happening in Southeast Asia’s healthcare sector. These include blockchain for security and operability and AI for fundus eye imaging, to name a few.

Tham also said that at some point in the future, drones would transport drugs directly to people in far-flung regions where healthcare options are limited. He also believes that AI and machine learning technology will aid physicians who will benefit from improvements from counselling outpatients to remotely monitoring patients in intensive care units.

In December 2021, a British nonprofit organization called DeHealth announced the development of a Decentralized Metaverse that will take millions of doctors and patients to a ‘new world’ where they can collaborate in real 3D and monetize their anonymized medical data.

The DeHealth Metaverse will blend virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality (MR) technologies. It will allow several individuals, such as a doctor and a patient, to communicate using one virtual space and incorporating the real-world setting.

“To implement our metaverse, we will use a new technological stack: the Hospital OS digital platform, the blockchain network (cryptoeconomics of the HLT Network), fundamentally different AR/VR devices, electronic clothing, 5G communication networks, quantum computing and communications, cybersecurity, data storage chips using synthetic biology and so much more,” said Denys Tsvaig, Co-Founder of DeHealth.

Related article: Thailand launches ASEAN’s first 5G “smart hospital” with Huawei

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