Omnia Health is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Augmenting medical tourism with the metaverse

Article-Augmenting medical tourism with the metaverse

Shutterstock healthcare metaverse
The impact of metaverse technology on the medical tourism industry promises a lot. But can it deliver?

Medical tourism, the practice of traveling abroad for medical treatment, has been a popular choice for individuals seeking cost-effective, timely, and high-quality healthcare services.

Estimated to be worth $54.4 billion in 2020, the medical tourism industry is expected to grow to more than US$200 billion by 2027. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent restrictions on foreign travel significantly affected the industry.

As a response, the healthcare sector embraced telemedicine, incorporating virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies to provide remote healthcare services. With its potential to bridge geographical barriers and enhance patient experiences, metaverse technology has the potential to boost medical tourism, but has the hype died down?

Related: The potential of metaverse in disrupting healthcare

The appeal of medical tourism lies in its ability to offer cost savings, faster treatment, and access to quality medical care. Additionally, countries benefitting from medical tourism experience increased international accreditation of medical institutions and advancements in healthcare facilities due to the influx of medical travellers. As a result, investors have been encouraged to build new hospitals, and clinics, and expand existing ones to cater to the growing demand for medical services from abroad.

While soaring healthcare costs in the US and other countries continue to shape and expand the medical tourism market, medical travel providers grapple with substantial challenges that impede their growth and profitability.

According to a 2023 Medical Tourism Association survey, lack of trust, poor patient experiences, and inefficient marketing tools are the main obstacles that stand in the way of turning potential prospects into leads. More than 53 per cent of the participants in the study stated that a major obstacle to expansion is the lack of patient leads, with the Middle East (20.5%), North America (22.7%), and Asia Pacific (31.8%) being the most affected.

Prior to travel, obstacles like inadequate communication, stressful pre-travel arrangements, and a lack of information lead to poor patient experiences. This is where the metaverse can help bolster the medical tourism industry. Prospective patients can take a “try before you buy” approach to preview the procedures and venues, as well as where they will stay to recuperate without ever having to leave the house.

The term “metaverse” refers to a network of integrated 3D virtual worlds that users can access and navigate in real-time. It is a tech idea that has gained popularity since Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg altered the social media platform to incorporate VR and AR models. Using their eye movements and voice commands, users can explore these virtual environments using a headset that creates the experience of being physically at the hospital.

Last October, UAE-based Thumbay Group announced the launch of the region’s first Metaverse Hospital. Dr. Thumbar Moideen, the founder and president of the Thumbay Group, claims that the Metaverse Hospital will be a totally virtual facility where visitors can arrive in the form of an avatar, explore the space as if it were real, and even have a consultation with a physician. In addition to the novelty of the technology, on a practical note, this aims to alleviate long wait times and geographic barriers for patients.

Dr. Moideen also highlighted how patients who are admitted on-site and would like to spend time with their relatives at home can benefit from the virtual model. “For example, a Sri Lankan person has been with us for a long period of time who was paralysed after a car accident, and his sensory motions are gone, but only his brain is functioning,” he explains. “He can virtually visit his room in Sri Lanka through AR and VAR technology. This motivates long-term care patients and gives them hope that they can go back to their country.”

Related: Exploring exciting possibilities of healthcare in the metaverse

At Arab Health 2022, the UAE Ministry of Health and Community Protection (MOHAP) revealed the launch of the first metaverse-based customer service centre to provide virtual customer care in a digitally immersive and interactive way.

Combining real-world care with virtual care has the potential to improve patient care delivery and broaden the scope of medical travel. The increasing number of health companies and tech organisations navigating this unexplored region has the potential to unlock new digital solutions to augment the growth of medical tourism. However, as it currently stands, the impact of the metaverse on medical tourism is still too soon to tell.

Benefits of the metaverse

Pre-operative Insights

In the metaverse, prospective medical tourists can embark on a virtual journey to their chosen destination and healthcare facility. This allows them to gain pre-operative insights into the hospital’s layout, the quality of facilities, and the surrounding environment.

Virtual tours can include not only hospital facilities but also accommodations, local attractions, and even travel options. Medical tourists can thus make more informed decisions about their trip, promoting trust and transparency.

Telemedicine consultations

Telemedicine services integrated into the metaverse offer a novel way for medical tourists to connect with healthcare providers in their destination country. Virtual consultations can help patients establish rapport with their physicians and receive preliminary assessments before travelling. These virtual consultations can encompass discussions about treatment plans, recovery expectations, and post-operative care, all from the comfort of the metaverse.

Mental health and support

The metaverse can host support groups and counselling sessions for medical tourists dealing with pre-surgery anxiety or post-surgery recovery. Virtual reality (VR) experiences can create a supportive and immersive environment that fosters mental well-being.

These virtual support networks can connect patients who share similar medical journeys, providing emotional support and valuable insights.

Follow-up care and rehabilitation

After returning home, medical tourists can continue their post-operative care and rehabilitation through the metaverse. VR-based rehabilitation exercises and follow-up consultations can help patients adhere to their treatment plans and recover more effectively. Tele-rehabilitation not only enhances the patient experience but also facilitates long-term care, reducing the need for frequent in-person visits.

Back to Technology

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.