Whenever virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) is mentioned, entertainment and video games are what first come to mind. But the growing enterprise adoption of VR and AR has revolutionized various sectors and industries.
In healthcare, these technologies have already gained a strong foothold.
Virtual reality in the medical field has become an innovative experience. The use of these immersive technologies in healthcare provides new pathways of treatment and education. Patients receive better care and practitioners can undergo training with the latest information.
The functional applications of VR and AR extend across all segments of the medical field. From medical training to patient care, here are five ways virtual reality and augmented reality are changing the dynamics of the healthcare industry.
1. Pain management
Patients who must undergo known painful medical procedures can often experience general distress. Associated pain also makes many patients hesitate to undergo specific medical procedures. New medical applications in VR address these pain management challenges.
VR technology can be used to alleviate pain symptoms and acute and chronic pain management. The most widely researched uses of VR in pain management include:
- Burn care
- Cancer pain
- Regional pain syndrome
- Chronic neck pain
- Physical therapy
- Chronic neuropathic pain
In clinical studies, VR has demonstrated that it has the technological ability to decrease pain, distress, anxiety, and overall unpleasantness. This effect is evident in both adult and children who show signs of distress leading up to stress during medical procedures.
For pain rehabilitation, VR has emerged as an augmented evidence-based therapy, supporting other rehabilitation procedures.
2. Patient care
The importance of patient care cannot be overemphasized. Better patient care results in a more positive recovery experience and lower mortality rates. It can also help patients manage and overcome natural fears associated with being in a hospital setting. This is especially true for adolescent patients.
With medical VR, patient care enters the realm of digital technology. VR promotes calm and relaxation, helping patients who suffer from anxiety, distress, and other phobias, alleviate their fears. Through medical VR, remote patients are given access to almost-in-person experiences.
This revolutionizes telemedicine for patients who have difficulty leaving home. Incorporated with other digital interfaces such as video chatting apps, remote patient care has become a better overall experience.
3. Patient education
The ability of VR to engage multiple learning systems results in improved patient education. A more immersive patient education experience produces well-informed patients. These patients can make more informed decisions and retain that information in the long-term.
VR also enables a hands-on experience inaccessible by other technological tools. With VR technology, healthcare practitioners are able to communicate details and possibilities of the relevant medical procedure in greater detail. Patients who are more familiar with the exact processes in a medical procedure are less likely to experience distress and anxiety.
4. Medical training
A significant growth area in medical VR is training healthcare practitioners.
VR training provides teaching modules for students and professionals alike. Virtual reality training programs enable students to learn medical specialties in an immersive environment. It also enables them to experience and respond to medical emergencies in a virtual setting. Doctors can use VR training to learn how to perform new procedures as well.
In the near future, medical VR will play a more prominent role. As virtual hospitals come to fruition, healthcare practitioners must be able to use medical VR to guide other healthcare providers in remote settings.
5. Medical procedures
Surgical procedures demand perfection and precision. Falling below the medical standard of care can equate to medical malpractice. But surgical perfection requires practice.
This is where medical VR comes in. Through virtual simulations, surgeons can run through complicated procedures for a particular surgery. For surgeons in training, these virtual simulations can be used as a teaching tool to supplement their surgery experience.
Learning the ins and outs in an immersive, virtual environment makes the medical procedure safer for the patient. Doctors also gain exposure to high-pressure scenarios and critical situations with no risk of medical malpractice.
A new medical frontier awaits
Virtual reality is positioned to radically change how medical professionals and patients interact and engage in a healthcare setting. With healthcare becoming more augmented and virtual, it will only be a matter of time until virtual reality advances healthcare in new and unprecedented ways.
Judit Chackal is responsible for the marketing, communication and business development efforts of Reach MENA and its sister company, SENSE-R, the leading MENA-based virtual reality developer for VR branding projects and Industrial Training Simulators. She has over a decade of experience in delivering strategic marketing & business development visions for global clients in the travel, hospitality, events and education sectors. Her passion for content and experiential marketing led her to the field of virtual reality project development.