How Virtual Reality Will Change Healthcare

  • 21 July 2016
  • Disruptor Daily

If you’ve ever sat through a virtual reality simulation you know what a jaw-dropping experience it truly is. Technology has advanced in such a tremendous way that the user experience is out of this world. With advancements constantly in the pipeline, dozens of industries from researchers to military establishments are looking to adopt the technology in order to assist their standard practices.

Virtual Reality Healthcare

As it relates to healthcare, VR has the capacity to make sweeping changes in how practitioners treat patients and train their staff. One such implementation has already taken place allowing people around the globe to witness a surgery performed live from a virtual reality headset. Medical students and professionals now have the ability to watch and learn from seasoned physicians from the comfort of their homes.

How is this beneficial? First, once the technology is more widely used, medical hopefuls would have access to hundreds of more procedures. Students would be able to gain firsthand experience and become acclimated to what it’s like to think on your feet in an operating room.

Virtual Care Programs

UC Davis in California has implemented a virtual care program enabling students to perform procedures without the risks associated with operating on a live patient. Procedures available to the students range from colonoscopies to organ transplantation. Seasoned physicians also utilize the technology to bone up on more complex procedures and to practice before complicated operations. The programs available for the simulation put the user in realistic scenarios which force them to make a split-second decision and deal with unforeseen complications. The opportunity to deal with these issues in a very real, hands-on way prepares doctors in ways that textbooks alone cannot.

Patients Benefit

When it comes to the actual patient, they too can benefit from advancements in virtual reality. For instance, VR is an effective and less intensive way to work with patients in need of exposure therapy. Patients with extreme phobias, like arachnophobia which is the fear of spiders, benefit from contact with the source of their fear. VR offers a perceived safer environment in which to deliver therapy.

Virtual Reality for Amputees

Virtual reality has proven valuable in the treatment of amputees. A common condition amongst those who have suffered the loss of a limb is phantom limb pain. This is characterized by the sensation of pain, burning or itching in the lost limb. By attaching mechanical limbs connected to a VR simulation, amputee patients are able to perform normal activities such as driving a car with both hands. This treatment has shown to reduce symptoms of phantom limb pain.

Pain Management

Pain management is another area in which VR can be of some help. Multiple programs, such as Deep and SnowWorld, are aimed at assisting individuals in pain management. By placing the patient into an alternate reality, they’re able to more or less forget their pain while participating in the game. Unbelievably, SnowWorld has been found to be more effective than morphine.

The uses of virtual reality are vast. Professionals are seeing improvements in autistic patients learning to deal with social situations and in more detailed evaluations of brain damage.

As technology continues to lead the way in innovation, industries worldwide will continue to find new ways to utilize virtual reality.

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