Another part of his vision that Latus shared for the future of healthcare is around the concept of the “virtual hospital”. This is a project that Latus Healthcare is currently developing and could become available as a service within 12 to 18 months. Essentially it comprises of a virtual reality hospital environment, accessed through a headset, where treatments will at first be focused around counseling and physiotherapy services. Physiotherapy will make use of computer vision – for example, using cameras to investigate the range of motion in damaged joints, as well as the progress that patients are making towards recovery. Latus says, “With VR and AR, we’re able to give them much better feedback on their process … for example someone with a shoulder joint issue, if that shoulder range of motion improves by three percent, as an individual, you probably wouldn’t feel that.

“But if you can get it reported back to you, you will actually see it working, and get a plan … if you improve at this rate, you can get back to normal in a certain number of weeks. From a motivation or compliance point of view … that’s going to have a massive effect. You have genuine data to back up the work you’ve been putting in.”

It’s clear that many aspects of healthcare delivery will be affected by the opportunities offered by the metaverse. There may be some hurdles to be overcome first, particularly around people’s attitudes to receiving treatment online or remotely – which may still be seen as a second-best or backup option by many. There are also questions around equality of access – VR headsets are not cheap, and if they are required in order to take part, it could be seen as further contributing towards inequality in access to healthcare. But these are issues that are likely to be addressed given time if the new generation of digital-first healthcare providers can successfully show that their innovation will lead to reduced cost and improved outcomes for patients.