Healthcare and medicine is one field that has always required a high calibre of understanding and execution due to the risks involved with the profession. Not only is a patient’s mental and physical health on the line, but those that receive care are often in one of the most vulnerable positions in their life. And while traditional methods of treatment and education still provide adequate understanding and care to the end patient, VR can help make the current processes better.
The use of VR in healthcare has been steadily on the rise as hospitals, schools, and medical professionals have invested in its capabilities, recognizing the value of fully immersing a student, client or patient in a virtual environment. That’s because using virtual reality in healthcare or medicine is able to create a line of perfect communication. Through showing rather than telling, difficult concepts, complex procedures, and treatment methods can now be understood in a clear and effective way.
Let’s explore these 5 use cases to see how using VR in healthcare could make a world of a difference in providing care for your patients.
1. Learning the Human Anatomy
With over 200 bones and 600 muscles, there is a lot to memorize when it comes to human anatomy. From the different nervous systems, types of cells, muscle groups and vital organs, learning about the human body is no simple task. Plus, textbooks and worksheets may just comprise of a black and white print out picture of a body with various lines pointing to a vague area of the body. While straight memorization is the current trick that most students use to retain all this information, this type of learning can often detach the student from having a greater understanding or even appreciation for their own bodies.
However, with VR, learning this material can be simplified through seeing it visually. Nowadays, there are various apps and even VR seminars that can help you learn the human anatomy through an interactive lesson. Whether you would like to narrow down and focus on the classification of bones or would like to see where the muscles fit in together, these interactive virtual courses offer a more holistic approach to learning about these complex systems.
2. Surgical Procedures
Using virtual reality for surgery is probably one of the most notable uses cases of VR in healthcare. Due to the variety of factors that come into play, surgery is one of the most risky divisions of healthcare and requires skill and years of expertise to be able to perform well. However, while the patient is more often than not nervous about the procedure, it’s important to also acknowledge that surgeons can be apprehensive about certain cases more than others. Especially if it’s their first time assisting or even leading a surgery, the stakes are high and the pressure of needing to perform on a live person can be really overwhelming.
One defining reason as to why VR has become one of the most popular training tools for surgeons is the elimination of risk. Mistakes can be incredibly costly during surgery, and one wrong move can prove to be fatal. However, virtual reality offers a great middle ground solution. Whether you were just introduced to a surgical procedure or a veteran surgeon wanting to brush up on some newer techniques, VR allows you to practice however many times without the risk of harming others. And since practice makes perfect, being able to complete procedures in VR can help build confidence in surgeons, allowing them to make better snap decisions that could ultimately save someone’s life.
3. Pain Management
Pain can be one of the worst parts of receiving medical assistance. The majority of people can’t help but focus on the pain they’re experiencing at the moment, but that fixation can sometimes make it worse.
VR allows patients to be whisked away to stunning sights to help cope with the anxiety that comes with surgery. (Image Retrieved: https://bit.ly/2TdIHgL)
While VR can be a great source of entertainment to distract you from the stack of assignments you need to complete, it can also be used for pain relief or assisting in patients managing it better. A recent 2019 study followed patients from St. George Hospital in London before heading into surgery or even wearing it in the operation theater. Patients were then transported to tropical beaches and beautiful sceneries to help ease their anxieties over the procedure. What researchers found was that 100% of participants said the headset improved their hospital experience, and 80% said they felt less pain wearing the headset. Aside from St. George Hospital, VR has also been used for expecting mothers to get through labor pain, giving another pain management option to those who want to give birth naturally.
Physical therapy can be both physically and mentally demanding, especially for those who have just been through a traumatic event. And while their current state is less than ideal, a lack of progress can quickly be an overwhelming point of discouragement. Feeling stuck or unable to perform stretches or simple tasks that seemed normal before can be a difficult pill to swallow, so one way VR has been able to assist with the rehabilitation process is through making a sort of game out of it.
Working with physical therapists, Neuro Rehab VR has been providing their clients with programs that allow them to target specific areas that need strengthening and conditioning. Using VR in rehab allows clients to focus on another stimulating activity while exercising their weaker areas without the tendency to fixate on progress, pain, or discomfort.
Watch this TedTalk on how VR could be a game changer in physical rehabilitation:
Mental health has been a relatively big topic for the past few years, and it’s important to seek professional help to help us on a journey to becoming the best version of ourselves. While there currently isn’t a robust ecosystem for live therapy sessions using a VR headset, there are certain difficulties that you can address and confront with using virtual reality.
VR allows users to encounter their deepest fears in a less risky environment. (Image retrieved: https://bit.ly/329kpII)
For those struggling with phobias, VR is a great tool to help you engage with your fears in the safety of your home. This type of therapy is very effective due to VR’s immersive capabilities. Because technology has advanced so far and the participants can fully interact with the virtual world, experiences in VR can feel very real. Partaking in immersion therapy in person can be much more shocking and difficult since the one thing you are most afraid of is right in front of you. Virtual reality offers a middle ground solution where you can still have a real experience with your fears in a synthetic and safe environment.
VR in Healthcare and Medicine - A Game Changer
There’s a reason why VR has been gradually taking over the field of healthcare and medicine. With providing a mode for greater understanding and an avenue for other methods of treatment, VR is a piece of flexible technology that can and will continue to transform our current healthcare systems. We’re excited to see how this industry will change with the power of VR!
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