The majority of the Korean medical community opposes telemedicine, but some doctors call for a change in mindset to embrace the digitization of health services.
“A storm called metaverse is approaching us,” said Mun Seog-kyun, head of the research coordination office at the Korean Medical Association’s research institute for healthcare policy, in an email newsletter of the KMA. Mun is a professor at the Otorhinolaryngology Department of Chung-Ang University Hospital.
“In the era of digital transformation, the time has come when the healthcare community needs to change the perception of medicine so that they can follow the global trend and move in the right direction,” he said.
People used to regard metaverse as something distant in the future, but the Covid-19 pandemic advanced it quickly, Mun noted.
He introduced how metaverse changed the landscape of the local medical community.
According to Mun, metaverse brought lecture rooms, operating theaters, and medical education changes.
Professors provide lectures on metaverse platforms such as XR Class and Gather Town, and students can repeatedly learn beyond the limit of time and space. They can also experience surgery in a virtual space.
Some hospitals are opening branches using metaverse.
Hallym University Medical Center recently opened a Metaverse-based Children’s Burn Hospital.
Seoul National University Bundang Hospital launched Metaverse Global Hospital.
Severance Hospital is pushing a project to open a metaverse hospital, too.
Mun said metaverse provides a real-time VR environment to overcome the fatigue of in-person meetings, and professors can give lectures in real-time without making separate materials or videos.
Professors and students can make avatars participate in the class, which gives a feeling of having a face-to-face meeting and increases immersion, he said. Also, he added that it gives a sense of belonging, raising the students’ satisfaction in the class.
Mun pointed out that medical education methods have also become diverse thanks to the metaverse.
In traditional medicine, anatomy and clinical training were given through textbooks, human body models, practice videos, and cadaver training. However, these methods were two-dimensional materials, making it difficult for students to understand three-dimensional structures of the human body and receive repeated training, Mun said.
With the advent of VR devices and Microsoft’s HoloLens2, however, students can overcome the limitations of time and space and receive repeated training, he went on to say.
“Although there is not much content yet, metaverse has a high potential for advancement, and there will be a radical shift in clinical training,” he said.
According to Mun, for families of staff and customers who find it difficult to visit a hospital, metaverse hospitals offer a chance to experience the hospital’s virtual space and receive education and consultation.
To provide customized treatment services, telemedicine has to become legal in Korea.
Although the operation of metaverse hospitals is limited, many hospitals are keen to use metaverse, he added.