Today, VR is a common thing for most industries, which use it to enhance their business performance and promote a newer, more tech-savvy future. Healthcare is one of the front-liners that adjusts to the technological pace and digital capabilities. But, how can we use Virtual Reality in medicine? Let’s explore!
Healthcare Outlook: 2021
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Covid-19 has become the biggest burden for the medical industry in the last few years. Pandemics have triggered total re-organization for medical institutions bringing healthcare to a new digital level. Doctor’s appointments, mental health support, medical education, and patient treatment became remote to the most possible extent as of today. Pandemics and its causes accelerated healthcare provision and added new digital innovations in 2020. According to Deloitte, 65% of Europe’s health care providers mentioned the adoption of digital technologies to support work and care settings in the previous year. One of the most common implementations was Virtual Reality – an emerging technology, the market price of which, together with Augmented Reality, is projected to increase to $4.64 billion by 2025.
Virtual Reality in Healthcare
Virtual Reality (VR) is a completely simulated 3D interactive environment, which allows humans to obtain different valuable experiences without leaving their comfort zone. Usually, this experience is achievable with the help of VR goggles (a headset) or sensor gloves. In the medical settings, VR became a handy solution, with the help of which students and medical practitioners could obtain valuable knowledge, conduct the much-needed research, and patients could be treated for several conditions.
VR In Medical Training
Virtual Reality medical training is the new tomorrow in the healthcare industry. As Covid-19 has impacted the way medical students obtain knowledge, VR came forwards as one of the best solutions.
1. Students in City College of Santa Barbara at California started using VR in class to learn medical procedures. For instance, the Radiology Lab students learned to position the patient, set up an X-Ray machine, and take the X-Ray without any radiation. According to Bruce Oda, director of the Medical Imaging Sciences program at the college, the main focus was to
So, using VR equipment made students learn the theory and have a virtual practice on the spot.
2. In the UK, the company providing VR technologies cooperated with the NHS and developed VR software. With the help of this software, it became possible to train the medical workers how to use personal protective equipment (PPE), navigate through an intensive care ward, use a ventilator and engage with patients. And, all of this is possible without even being physically present at the healthcare institution.
Dr. Alex Young, the CEO of the company says that
3. Virtual reality used in medicine has been also applicable in training cardiologists to perform OCT (optical coherence tomography) – imaging during coronary-vascular procedures. VR is efficient and gives access to the resources limited during the pandemics. So, educating students with the help of VR puts them in the exact environment and makes practice from the front line.
4. Together with AR, VR is applicable in surgical navigation and robotic surgery. Analytics Insights state that both students and patients will be able to receive precise information according to the surgical procedures and obtain valuable visuals. With the help of VR surgery visuals, students will be able to train their skills by implementing theoretical knowledge in practice. What concerns patients, VR visuals can help them see any surgery they will go through to the tiniest detail.
5. Due to VR, there is a possibility to investigate the lives of elderly people, autistic patients, people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dementia, anxiety, and severe pain. Deloitte states that about 10% of the world’s population has a mental condition that leads to ill health and disability. So, with the VR possibilities students can get insights into how these people think, communicate, interact with others and what their special conditions deprive them of. The president of LeadingAge believes that
Virtual reality is an incredibly useful staff training tool, particularly if you’re working with people who are living with dementia because there are VR programs designed to help understand what it feels like to live with dementia.
Dementia impacts the lives of 50 million people globally today. VR programs are applicable to understand and treat dementia or any other condition on the list that requires research and understanding to have better chances of healthcare support and enhancement of patient well-being.
VR in Treatment
Besides gaining valuable medical knowledge, VR is also used in patient and employee treatment.
6. In the clinical setting, healthcare employees remain in constant stress and a hasty atmosphere. Without being able to relax, any medical worker appears on the verge of a breakdown with a higher number of incompetent actions and erroneous decision-making. To ensure doctors are relieved from negative working conditions and the ones caused by pandemics, Florida University researchers have created a virtual reality medical software that helps healthcare practitioners to de-stress. According to Spectrum News 13, the app uses the VR set to create places medical workers can visit. For instance, these might be virtual lounges of scenic spots, which are supported by soothing music or sounds. Going through the calming therapy allows to do the breathing exercises, and track the response of the medical worker with the help of a headband. This band can monitor brain wave activity and give the potential picture of whether the therapy is working and how exactly.
Dr. Azra Bihorac, professor of medicine at the University of Florida thinks that VR-supported soothing software helps to engage in a session of meditations and states that
7. Wired, an online technology magazine, claims that Virtual Reality in medicine is the best way to cure anxiety, nostalgia, and the need for socialization. In times of quarantine, it is really hard to adjust to the home-life and be on your own most of the time. In such cases, numerous medical conditions come forward and escalate. Hence, 10-20 minutes of VR medication or travel can make you:
- feel calmer and relaxed
- see all the childhood places
- experience adventures on earth and underwater without being cold, wet, or muddy
- interact with nature, e.g. birds and butterflies
- socialize with friends and family members
VR headset treatment will lower the chances of severe anxiety outbreaks, eliminate nostalgic mood and allow you to travel everywhere you’ve always wanted.
8. In elderly care, VR can be a helpful tool to understand seniors. HealthTech speaks about VR-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab research that found out elderly people benefited from engaging with VR. One of the benefits was the enhanced mood and the other – there was no feeling of social isolation.
9. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center uses VR on patients to cope with pain and stress as an alternative to pain-relieving medication. This is done mostly during the patient’s hospital stay. The pain of mild, moderate, severe, or chronic character is a serious health issue affecting 11% – 40% of American adults according to CDC. So, VR is just a tool that helps in easing the pain. Cedars-Sinai Clinic believes that pain can be not only eased by VR but also treated because
In Medical VR Research
10. The World Economic Forum says that VR used in healthcare research is crucial these days. But how exactly is research conducted with the help of VR? The answer is pretty simple. For example, a VR headset can be used in clinical trials to investigate the life and home surroundings of the specific groups, e.g. people with Parkinson’s disease. With the help of VR, it becomes more understandable how these people organize their daily routine and what interventions might cope with their biggest troubles.
Having the possibility to gather solid evidence, medical researchers propose various hypotheses and can propose new therapies, technologies, or products that will surely work to gain better health. Digitized clinical trials make it possible to research almost anything as they do not require entering the patient’s home, which we can’t do amid pandemics.
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Virtual Reality in the medical field is becoming very popular. And, based on its implementations, VR is going to stay with us for a long time and advance further. By so far, VR made it possible to achieve better patient treatment, conduct more solid research, and educate medical workers on a newer level of perception.