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Welcome to the metaverse: The doctor will see your avatar now

There’s nothing virtual about a broken bone, an abscessed tooth, or a heart attack. Physical ailments require physical treatments, sometimes urgently. So a true metaverse of healthcare is hard to imagine—that is, a mixed-reality realm in which participants collaborate and transact in immersive virtual spaces via headsets and controllers. Current virtual worlds are mostly based on gaming or social interactions, neither of which most patients consider appropriate for their personal healthcare.

However, “healthcare in the metaverse” is already in the early stage.

Elements of the metaverse—virtual, augmented, and mixed reality—are already in use in medical schools, operating rooms, and skilled nursing homes, for starters.

  • Startups and incumbents alike are racing to develop new uses for the technologies and partnering to deploy them. The $4.1 trillion healthcare system is broken, and everyone wants a stake in finding a solution.
  • Regulation is coming. The US Food and Drug Administration currently reviews virtual and augmented reality devices via its Medical Extended Reality Program, a precursor to setting regulatory requirements for future devices and uses.

Below, we detail just a few examples of how healthcare is integrating virtual, augmented, and mixed reality today.