Healthcare companies are gearing up to adopt upcoming technological advances, including the metaverse, as revealed in the Accenture Digital Health Technology Vision 2022 report. According to the study, more than 80 per cent of healthcare executives reported that the volume of Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing devices deployed in their organizations has increased significantly or exponentially in the past three years, and nearly all respondents (96 per cent) said their companies' long-term success will depend on the next generation of computing capabilities to solve problems that today's computers struggle to solve. One of these advances will be the metaverse. Unlike the Internet, which can be seen as an innumerable collection of websites and applications, the metaverse is a 3D environment that attempts to replicate the real world using virtual reality devices, in which it would be possible, for example, to easily go from work to a doctor's office. "The metaverse seems futuristic, but we are already visualising opportunities enabled by it that can enhance how people manage data about their health, how they engage with healthcare providers and how these organisations can support people in their routines and wellbeing. Healthcare companies that begin to make strategic investments to build a high-performance digital technology foundation will be the ones that help shape the next generation of healthcare, creating more ways to access, better experiences, more trust and better outcomes, while keeping people at the centre of it all," explains Rich Birhanzel, global health leader at Accenture. The next horizon for healthcare companies in the metaverse will be about experimenting with the Internet of Places and the Internet of Ownership. For example, teams of doctors will be able to learn new procedures without having to physically be in the same operating room. Or, when a person is travelling, they will be able to securely submit their medical history to a healthcare professional in another city or country, without having to go to their home doctor. Over 80% of healthcare leaders believe the metaverse will produce positive impacts in the future, with almost half seeing innovative or transformative advances. More than metaverse, Accenture's Digital Health Technology Vision 2022 study explored four technology trends that will play a role in transforming the healthcare sector in the coming years: WebMe: Illustrates how the internet is being reimagined with the metaverse as a platform for digital experiences that present unlimited places where people can meet and interact. Web3, on the other hand, is reinventing how data could be owned by individuals and moved with people rather than platforms. In the metaverse, it will be possible to transcend time and space to simulate interactions, shorten learning cycles and practice procedures, as in surgical training. The Programmable World: Traces how technology is being chained into physical environments in three layers: connection, experience and material. It deals with building the next version of the physical world in healthcare. Technologies from 5G, the Internet of Things, ambient computing, augmented reality, 3D printing and smart materials are converging in sophisticated ways, transforming the physical world into an environment that is as smart, customizable and programmable as the digital one. Healthcare companies will develop and deliver new experiences, and reinvent their own operations, in order to create a new kind of world in which physical spaces will be adaptable to our needs. For 94% of healthcare executives surveyed, industry leaders will push the boundaries of the virtual world to make it more real, which will elevate the need for smoother navigation between the physical and digital worlds. The Unreal: Exploits the "unreal" qualities fundamental to artificial intelligence and even data, making the synthetic seem authentic. Synthetic data is being used to train AI models in ways that real-world data practically cannot or should not. They can represent patient information sets for use in research, training or other applications. Such realistic (but unrealistic) data can be shared while retaining the same statistical properties and protecting confidentiality and privacy. Computing the Impossible: It has to do with quantum computing. Problems once considered impossible to solve because they would require processing huge, complex data sets are becoming possible. Quantum computing can allow healthcare executives to test different scenarios and find complex dependencies much more quickly, for example, to better treat diseases or predict virus outbreaks. Opportunities and risks In healthcare, the biggest opportunity today is capitalizing on the potential of the space between the real and fully virtual worlds. In an interview with Healthcare Finance News, Kaveh Safavi, a senior director at Accenture Health, said he was surprised to find that nearly all healthcare executives surveyed (91%) believe that technological advances are becoming more reliable than economic, political or social trends to inform their organizations' long-term strategies. However, 64% of executives surveyed said IT infrastructure and security breaches are their main concerns, particularly deepfakes or other waves of misinformation. The Accenture director highlights that it is important to join industry consortia and standardization groups to raise the levels of governance, cybersecurity and data interoperability to set standards for how devices should connect and communicate in healthcare. The Accenture Digital Health Technology Vision 2022 study surveyed 391 healthcare executives in 10 countries. In addition, it surveyed 24,000 people globally to gather information about uses, interactions and beliefs in technology in their lives.