Technological advancements in Virtual Reality have opened up doors for researches, professionals and individuals alike to capitalise on the immersive and realistic experiences that video games can bring.
Whereas most VR systems have historically focused on visuals, recent research in Japan is exploring beyond visual and sound limitations and integrating VR with the sense of touch.
These innovative developments pose great potential for patients and doctors alike, transforming the way that patients receive treatment and how doctors perform better.
Here are five ways that VR technologies are transforming the healthcare industry :
- VR Surgical Operations
Since the first VR surgery was conducted in 2016, the technology has been used to train aspiring surgeons and provide lifelike surgery scenarios. These surgeries can be viewed by anyone online in real-time via online streaming and have already been integrated into college curriculums for medical students to learn about human anatomy, cadaver-free. A recent study from Harvard Business Review showed that VR-trained surgeons had a 230% boost in their overall performance compared to their traditionally-trained counterparts.
- Stress Relief
VR technologies are becoming a popularised solution for patients to use in hospital as a way to reduce anxiety, stress and even chronic pain. In a recent pilot study, patients at a hospital in London had the choice of using a VR headset during their operations, where the overwhelming majority of patients reported they felt more relaxed and less anxious throughout the procedure. It is also being used as a distraction from post-surgical pain and painful treatments.
- Educational Tool
Presenters at healthcare conferences are also making the most out of VR technologies available. Integrating 3D visualization and gamification into presentations, regardless of the industry, has the potential to improve audience engagement and informative visuals. VR can also demonstrate in detail how certain substances affect the human body and health – for example, the process of how different foods are digested.
- Empathy Training
VR may be able to simulate scenarios and replicate physical stimuli of what patients are feeling, whether it be a physical or mental ailment. While the moral implications of stimulating certain virtual scenarios are still being explored, there is the potential for doctors to better understand patients’ needs and offer the best solution for each individual.
- Physical Therapy
A study published in 2019 found that children with cerebral palsy experienced drastic improvements in their mobility after taking VR therapy over a certain period of time. A gamified approach to physical therapy guided by physicians means that exercises can be tailored to each patients’ needs and track progress more accurately.
There are still regulatory barriers and attitudes in the healthcare industry and the wider community that are blocking VR technologies from being widely adopted in the medical setting.
However, as technology becomes increasingly affordable and advanced, it is certain that these immersive technologies will continue to pave healthcare improvements for patients, medical staff and wider communities alike.