Cleveland Clinic brings mental health to the metaverse

Cleveland Clinic has become the first major healthcare organization to enter the metaverse.

In the system's newly-launched Zen Quest virtual game, cheerful avatars welcome users to the "mindfulness retreat." 

The game is hosted on Roblox, an online platform that boasts 70 million daily users. 

Leopoldo Pozuelo, MD, center director of adult behavioral health at Cleveland Clinic, told Becker's the platform offers a chance to connect with a large population of patients that play video games. 

"In that context, meeting people where they are, if we have a chance to promote some wellness items, we're going to try," Dr. Pozuelo said. 

Players can wander down the virtual affirmation trail, where signs light up positive mantras. Users can also practice breathwork, meditation exercises and try their hand at virtual art therapy. 

"I think that we in the field of behavioral health have seen over the last decade, whether it's been games on consoles, games on the phones, now we're talking about the metaverse — we know our patients are spending time with that," Dr. Pozuelo said. "The crux is to figure out what is a healthy dose, and not to paint with a broad stroke, video games are this or that, but figure out how that individual uses it in their daily lives." 

Developers will collect data from the game, and explore potential opportunities to expand Cleveland Clinic's metaverse efforts.. A freestanding version of Zen Quest for patients to access could be one future opportunity. 

One potential outcome to study, Dr. Pozuelo said, is if players who interact with the Zen Quest continue playing games afterwards, or if they stop and take a break. 

"What's nice about this is it's in partnership with the developer. That, I think, is novel. We're doing this together," he said. 

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