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The dawn of the metaverse in healthcare

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Are we approaching a new era in healthcare with the arrival of the metaverse? Aravind Upadhyaya, Founder and CEO of 8chili Inc, speaks to Omnia Health about the newly launched HintVR™ and its exciting opportunities.

In the healthcare industry, the metaverse is rapidly gaining traction. Artificial intelligence, augmented reality, the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality, quantum computing, and robotics are all expected to change healthcare delivery and enhance patient outcomes. In recent years, augmented reality and virtual reality technologies have advanced tremendously, and they are now frequently employed in medical training, teaching modules, and surgical procedures to perform complex surgeries with extreme precision. These components are also employed in medical device and equipment software and hardware to improve their performance. 

During the forecast period, factors such as an expanding patient pool around the world, growing demand to improve patient outcomes, and technological advancements in the healthcare sector are likely to drive market expansion. Other factors expected to fuel market growth in the future are the emergence of metaverse-focused companies around the world, increasing collaborations to develop advanced AR and VR solutions to improve patient output and the overall surgical environment, and rising investments in research and development activities. 

To help shape solutions that focus on delivering experiences over products, 8chilli is rooted in deep technology and their product, HintVR™ is a metaverse platform designed to support surgeons to engage patients in immersive and interactive ways pre- and post-op, medical education, and 3D immersive training. 

Aravind Upadhyaya, Founder and CEO, discusses the details. Excerpts from the interview: 

Is the healthcare landscape changing since the announcement of the metaverse? How will it lend itself to healthcare and is it necessary to align with this development by introducing products and solutions? 

Healthcare applications are all about the evidence, and to clear the fad from the fact, multiple randomised control trials continue to take place across the world to prove the efficacy of the VR system over traditional methods. The metaverse is here to stay and we need to adapt.  
 
As and when the hardware becomes pervasive, people are expected to spend more time in the metaverse, which is why the first-mover advantage is to devise a strategy now. The lessons learned from the implementation will be valuable. In the last five years VR, especially in healthcare, has proven to be the silver lining to attract top talent, most patients, and provide them with the best experience.  

Health systems and educational institutions that do not embrace this advanced technology for better patient care and training needs will lose the battle in the next eight years.  

Remote tech and collaboration are rapidly being embraced by healthcare. Tell us about the inception of 8chili Inc and its Mixed Reality and Machine Vision solutions. 

Data analytics is not only driving a key part of the clinical decision-making process, but it is also easing long queues at hospitals and improving patient waiting time. It also encouraged collaboration during the pandemic and accelerated the implementation of tools and resources across all verticals, including healthcare. 

Looking back, an incident at my previous start-up is what led to the birth of 8chili. I was in an operating room with a surgeon, and as I watched him showcase his techniques, I realised that medical trainees rarely have opportunities to witness this. It is no wonder that mastering a specialised skill in healthcare is such a slow process. At 8chili Inc, our core team is built on a primary vision - Democratising access to quality healthcare training and delivering a state-of-the-art experience to patients. 

Our core team is the ideal mix of experience and passion to deliver the underlying infrastructure for the metaverse. 

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Aravind Upadhyaya, Founder and CEO, 8chilli

 

The future is here with HintVR™. Tell us more about how it will enhance the patient engagement experience, and support medical education and healthcare training. 

HintVR™ is an end-to-end platform that can be customised as required for engagement or training. Its Engage feature enables health systems to offer end-to-end VR solutions, such as counselling, consultation, and therapy. The unified VR immersive experience increases patient satisfaction and drives higher revenues. 

Training, on the other hand, enables health systems, medical colleges and teaching hospitals to enter the metaverse with original 3D immersive training content, which creates monetisation opportunities. So now, a traditional business model of simulation as a cost centre is upended with the 8chili HintVR™ platform. 

With the HintVR™ in place, what can physicians expect? Which organisations have adopted 8chili’s deep learning solutions and what are the benefits seen to date? 

The clinician always wants the fastest and the ideal recovery path for the patient, but with many touchpoints in today’s intricately connected world, interacting with them continuously can become a challenge. 

HintVR™ helps clinicians better communicate with the patient through guided sessions that help them understand their diagnosis, clinical treatment pathways, surgical procedure, testimonials, pre-surgery counselling, and post-surgery healing. HintVR™ also enables clinicians to overcome their communication and care challenges with patients.  

So far, Apollo Hospitals Group, Aster CMI and United Hospitals in India and Spectrum Health and Valley Children's Hospital in the US are currently engaged with the HintVR™ platform. 

There are huge benefits for a teaching hospital or a health system. The HintVR™ platform not only reduces the cost of training and re-training staff but also enforces standard operating procedures in the care continuum and is easy to scale. Nurse training has been a big issue for health systems globally, but the adoption of HintVR – complemented by its fast-paced delivery - is helping some of our clients resolve their shortages.  

To date, training is implemented at West Virginia University Medicine, Arizona Simulation and Technology Education Centre, UoA Medicine, and Global Healthcare Academy.  

Can you divulge what the future holds for 8chilli and the metaverse in the healthcare ecosystem? 

I see an acceleration in the adoption of digital health technologies, especially wearables followed by AR/VR and therapeutics. In the long-term Web 3.0, or metaverse as we call it now, will play a key role in the healthcare ecosystem as countries invest more time in the metaverse. Healthcare is moving towards value-based care and VR delivers the superior outcomes required to achieve value-based care. As Fred Lee explains in his book, "If Disney Ran Your Hospital - 9 1/2 Things You Would Do Differently", the core of this is the "experience". At 8chili, our mantra is to deliver life-changing experiences that help you build trust with your care provider.  

The HintVR™ platform will address patient engagement such as counselling, consultation, and pre-op guidance sessions, as well as post-op therapy focusing on rehab, sleep, stress, and pain management in patients. The same platform will deliver the training content to the healthcare professionals to deliver care better and be experts in what they do.  

The metaverse is the experiential internet where we will immerse and interact like it is second nature to us. Forecasts say that by the end of the year, the time spent by each user on the metaverse will be an average of 20 minutes. These values point towards more investments and the adoption of solutions in the metaverse. This is the future of the web. 

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