Healthcare and technology have always been intertwined. Pacemakers, electrocardiograms (EKGs), CAT scans, and, increasingly, robot-assisted surgery are all hallmarks of clinical care.
The pandemic accelerated the use of telemedicine to diagnose and occasionally treat patients. Increasingly, patients are taking health into their hands through wearables that can track heartbeats, blood pressure, and other vital signs.
There is one more emerging technology that holds significant promise for a variety of diagnoses, treatments, and extended patient care, but it rarely gets the recognition of those other famous technological aids.
Virtual reality (VR), which is now a valuable tool for healthcare professionals to diagnose patients, helps them get into shape, improve their mental health, and treat disorders.
As pioneering hospital Cedars-Sinai puts it on its VR-focused website: “VR is not just for gamers anymore; it is a new type of mind-body medicine.”
VR is increasingly becoming a key tool for healthcare providers as a training and therapeutic aid. In this post, we’ll explore the latter, identifying ways VR is helping healthcare providers deliver excellent care to their patients.
6 Ways VR can Enhance Medical Practise
Here are six healthcare VR solutions and the pipelines to their development:
For many applications, VR is no passive activity. Hi-impact games like Beat Saber and the boxing game Liteboxer VR get the heart racing from the comfort of your own living room. One health institute likened the aerobic activity on Beat Saber to playing tennis.
While getting on a treadmill or going to an exercise class may be a better form of exercise, the reality is that many people choose not to do the latter but could be interested in getting tertiary health benefits while playing games in the comfort of their own homes.
Beyond games that produce health benefits, exercise-specific apps like Supernatural, which grew in popularity during the pandemic, will continue to keep people active at home. In addition, expect more gyms to add VR capabilities to attract technology-obsessed customers.
While it costs nothing to meditate, the reality is many people need a helping hand to disconnect. That’s why Calm, Headspace, and other mindfulness and meditation apps are now big business.
Unsurprisingly, they’ve joined the VR community, where first-person perspectives talk about how using VR to meditate was the first time they ever truly could achieve the mindfulness many seek through meditation. Calm Sleep, specifically, has taken off as a way to treat insomnia, which can lead to mood disorders such as depression or anxiety.
A really impressive use of VR can help patients with everything from burn injuries to PTSD to strokes. RelieVRx is one of the treatments that provide digital pain management programs.
In his book “VRx: How Virtual Therapeutics Will Revolutionize Medicine”, Cedars-Sinai doctor Brennan Spiegel details how VR can help patients while avoiding surgeries or painkillers in certain situations. Many of the treatments are essentially games that calm the mind.
Detecting Diseases and Injuries
While there are still many ongoing studies, VR can help healthcare providers diagnose ailments as diverse as Alzheimer’s, social anxiety disorder, vertigo, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and concussions. Using puzzle games, VR can provide clues to illnesses hidden under the surface, reducing diagnosing time and expediting necessary treatment to improve quality of life.
Treating Identity Disorders
When researching for his VRx book, Dr Spiegel was surprised to learn about how a Montreal doctor used VR to help treat schizophrenia, which affects 1 percent of the population. The doctor and his team ask patients to describe how the voice inside their heads looks and sounds, and they can create it in VR.
The doctor can begin communicating in that voice when a patient has a VR headset on, not to necessarily eliminate the voice initially, but attempt to turn it from enemy to something more of a friend.
While Zoom and other video chat platforms help connect doctors and their patients, VR can take it a step further by bringing the patient and doctors closer together, while remaining in different physical locations, as well as recording patient experience logs and capturing and analyzing responses.
Meaningful Results and Outcomes
As VR matures and more healthcare providers demonstrate meaningful results, we anticipate even more use cases will arise. My Co-Founder Dr Sridhar Prathikanti and I have long been proponents of using VR for healthcare as it can help healthcare providers break through to hard-to-reach patients and can cut costs while, in certain situations, improving patient outcomes.
As more patients exert control over their own health, the appeal of continuing treatments from the comfort and privacy of their own homes will only increase. Today’s fun VR game could very well be tomorrow’s groundbreaking treatment.
The CEO of ConquestVR, Raghu Bathina, provided this guest blog post. Additionally, please visit ConquestVR’s website for more information regarding spatial audio equipment and use cases.