Metaverse, often criticized for lacking in substance, is winning recognition for its value as a new educational platform in the medical field. Experts say it has a high potential for educating not just medical students but hospital staff and patients as well.
The experts made these and other points at the “2022 KoVAV META Connect Digital Healthcare & 4th Health and Medical Data Innovation Forum” jointly held by the Ministry of Science and ICT and the Ministry of Health and Welfare on Wednesday to emphasize the importance of metaverse in the medical field.
Park Seon-young, CEO of NEWBASE, a medical educational platform, said metaverse is one of the methods to overcome the limits of the existing medical educational environment.
“The traditional medical education had limitations due to patient safety and interactions, but digital simulation based on metaverse provides a good alternative to overcome such problems,” Park said. “Thanks to these advantages, I expect the use of medical metaverse to begin in the educational area.”
Park pointed out that students can learn in an environment free from legal and ethical problems. As there will be no medical consumables costs, the students can practice unlimitedly according to their levels, which will also help to prevent medical accidents.
“However, from the viewpoint of developers, the problem is that the target market is small but its development takes a long time and a lot of money,” CEO Park said. “Expanding the educational area and increasing the medical sense of substance is the main challenge facing the metaverse-based medical education in the future.”
Some experts took note of its potential for educating medical staff and patients.
Cha Won-cheol, head of the Digital Innovation Center at Samsung Medical Center (SMC), predicted that a “virtual hospital” applying the metaverse technology would serve as the educational platform.
“There are many education programs that become possible only when you enter the hospital, as training space and a space to test new skills. The educational effect is different when the medical staff only read the manual and when they actually enter the hospital,” Park said. “In this regard, metaverse, or virtual hospital, is a good way to implement a realistic education platform terminal."
Park added that from the standpoint of patients, too, a virtual hospital using metaverse can be the guideline that patients not familiar with offline hospitals can rely on.
"We can also provide public lectures based on the trust that only the hospital has,” he said. “It provides a different experience from watching on ZOOM or YouTube."
The government also actively responded to the voices of the medical and industrial communities.
The government will spend 47.5 billion won ($33.9 million) for five years from 2023 to 2027 to conduct the “Project to develop medical technology based on virtual patients and virtual hospitals.” Its goal is to revitalize the health and medical metaverse ecosystem by materializing a successful virtual hospital model.
The government plans to solve unmet medical needs and secure industrial competitiveness by developing medical metaverse technology.
“As Korea enters a superaged society, it suffers from the shortage of medical workforce, wide gaps in healthcare access among regions, and infections within hospitals,” said Kim Ki-tae, a division head of the Korea Health Industry Development Institute. “The virtual hospital technology based on metaverse is drawing attention to solve these problems.”
However, the domestic metaverse-based medical services are mainly provided by small and midsize businesses, making it difficult to establish and commercialize platforms, Kim noted.
"The government will establish metaverse hospital platforms, create a state-level technological base, and secure global competitiveness in close cooperation with hospitals and businesses,” he said.