In late August, the World Economic Forum (WEF) released its 11th annual Top 10 Emerging Technologies report, highlighting innovative technology solutions that positively impact society.

In its report, the WEF named the “Medical Metaverse” among its top emerging technologies of 2023 – alongside flexible batteries, genAI, sustainable aviation fuel, designer phages, wearable plant sensors, spatial optics, flexible neural electronics, sustainable computing, and AI-facilitated healthcare.

The Metaverse for healthcare sits alongside a respectable list of technologies unrelated to XR, which can generate positive change across a spectrum of people worldwide.

The news comes as many place doubt on the future of the Metaverse following a dip in general interest. However, the WEF report highlights a vertical market that may experience improved professional and patient outcomes thanks to emerging Metaverse applications.

Moreover, Microsoft is resparking its stake in an Industrial Metaverse, with plans to debut products in 2024. So, it appears the Metaverse may get its second wave of enterprise-based interest as the new year arrives.

Leveraging Gamification for Increasing Patient Outcomes  

Emerging Metaverse services and integrated, immersive technologies grew alongside RT3D engines such as Unreal and Unity, two SDKs that developers commonly leverage for creating gaming content.  

More recently, with the rise of enterprise-grade immersive software, RT3D engine service providers are promoting expanded use cases outside gaming.  

Whether it’s Metaverse platforms, immersive training software, or digital twin design procedures, RT3D engines are bringing the power of interactive gaming technologies to new audiences.  

The WEF notes how mental health facilities and groups already leverage gaming platforms to improve patient outcomes via interactable and immersive experiences.  

Firms such as DeepWell, Ninja Theory, and TRIPP are assisting in improving engagement and reducing mental health concerns like anxiety and depression with wellness-focused XR experiences.  

With shared XR wellness and telehealth services increasing in number, patients could also experience advanced augmented and emotional connections with distant individuals, improving the mental health of virtually connected groups of pre and post-surgery patients.  

The WEF believes that the Medical Metaverse will soon allow patients to connect to therapeutic neurotechnologies, such as direct brain stimulation, to improve mental health outcomes.  

Why is WEF Focusing on the Medical Metaverse?

The healthcare market provides the perfect place to showcase the power of Metaverse applications to wider end-users.  

While many companies are making tremendous advances in immersive Metaverse technologies, auidences, end users, and investors are waiting for the right use case to come along and showcase the benefits of a promise-heavy Metaverse future.  

The WEF report notes that tangible healthcare-based use cases benefit both patients and Metaverse service providers by highlighting a “practical, necessary application” – therefore driving Metaverse adoption.

Moreover, The WEF reports how Vivek Murthy, the United States Surgeon General, recently explained how excess screen and social media time leads to decreased psychological well-being, “one of the country’s most pressing public health issues of our time.” 

The report notes that while excess screen time can lead to poor well-being, the same technology can improve the current mental health crisis if used correctly.  

WEF explains that “screen time spent building connections in shared virtual spaces might help combat the growing mental health crisis as opposed to contributing to it.” 

Moreover, the WEF notes how virtual shared Metaverse spaces can help improve the quality and reduce the psychological strain of digital interactions for professionals and consumers. 

For healthcare use cases, the Medical Metaverse is growing. The WEF notes how the growing mental health crisis makes conditions “ripe” for Metaverse-based healthcare solutions.  

HTC VIVE Joins the WEF Medical Metaverse Vision

In July, Pearly Chen, the Head of Business Development and Content Partnerships at VIVEPORT, HTC VIVE, spoke with the WEF to discuss the emerging presence of XR and the Metaverse in healthcare.

The HTC VIVE representative also reinforced how immersive solutions could ease patients into stressful surgeries or operations. “This really makes the patient experience not so scary anymore,” Chen remarked.

XR can assist in mental and physical therapy procedures. Chen notes that doctors can digitally deliver reliable services – commonplace in clinicians’ offices – to a patient’s home, dramatically improving healthcare services’ access and efficiency.

Moreover, according to Chen, doctors already use XR in healthcare institutions to help with high-stakes decision-making, including internal 3D visualisation and eventual patient communication, allowing doctors to explore RT3D visualisation of medical images. Therefore, doctors can improve communication between co-workers and patients with XR solutions.