While Virtual Reality used to be a concept reserved for amped-up conspiracy theorists and sci-fi loving, Matrix fans, it has entered the realm of ACTUAL reality. Revolutionary advances in technology has made it possible to explore the depths of the ocean while resting in a hospital bed and witness a risky, ground-breaking surgery in real-time from the comfort of your home.
Apart from the entertainment aspect of the technology, VR has become exceedingly practical in making significant strides towards innovation in other areas such as flight training modules for both civil and military pilots and in interior design to see your new home. One of the most exciting fields Virtual Reality is impacting is medicine and healthcare – how doctors work as well as the lives of patients.
Here are 5 ways VR is revolutionizing the medical industry right now:
#1 Helping Children Feel at Home
Surgery is not only hard on the body but long recovery times can be a detrimental effect on a patient’s psyche, especially for a child. Having observed this issue, a Dutch company, VisitU, sets up a 360-degree camera in the patient’s home, school or even at a live event and allows for live interactions between the patient and the environment. Utilised in several hospitals around Europe and the United States, this technology provides comfort to patients during extended stays and assists in quicker recuperation.
#2 Watching Operations from the Surgeons Perspective
Preparing for a career in medicine requires studying endless hours of training but nothing can compare to watching world-class surgeons in action. In 2016, the Royal London Hospital broadcasted the first surgery via VR to thousands of medical students and interested members of the public. With limited physical space in the operating room, this kind of access was unheard of, and future surgeons witnessing the stream could feel like they were actually present, arming them for upcoming challenges in a real and visceral way.
#3 Helping GD’s Understand the Elderly
For some young doctors, empathizing with the ailments of the elderly can be a difficult task, creating a disconnect in patient care. We are Alfred is a VR technology that allows doctors to experience what it is like to be a 74-year-old man with audio and visual impairments. This allows doctors to relate more with their elderly patients and teaches them how to exercise best practices in dealing with them.
#4 Pain Management
Burn victims are often in constant pain due to their injuries, but VR might be the key to managing that discomfort long-term. Researchers in Washington created an immersive VR game called Snow World that focuses the patient’s conscious attentional resources away from their burns towards the virtual world, where you throw snowballs at penguins and listening to Paul Simon. Researchers found that patients that were involved in Snow World had better pain management and reactions than those patients who were on morphine.
#5 Exposure Therapy
Phobias are often so deeply ingrained that it’s become instinctual and, at times, unmanageable. Exposure therapy may be the key to kicking that fear of flying or heights! VR allows for a controllable experience for patients in which they can experience the phobia and work through coping measures that they have been taught. While it may be a slow process, a University of Louisville study noted that a number of patients were able to board a flight for the first time in years due to their VR experience.
Intel has been showing its VR solutions off to the medical community for medical simulation and training, to engineers for CAD-type design usages, and more. VR is going to be just as much about enterprise as it is entertainment.