How is VR affecting the Healthcare Industry? Top 3 Uses of VR in Healthcare

What is VR?

Virtual reality (VR) allows users to see, hear, feel, and interact with situations within a computer-simulated setting. Special devices that facilitate this interaction, such as headsets and gloves, have dropped to an affordable price since their early release in the mid-90s. In 2022, VR headsets can be acquired for less than $400. Which means that now everyone can be a VR user! 

In fact, the industry is blooming, with the global VR market size expected to grow from 5 B in 2021 to 12B in 2024. The reason behind this exponential growth lies in its applications. VR has been applied to more than 20 industries, including automotive, law and enforcement and healthcare, increasing safety and efficiency.

How Can VR Be Applied to Healthcare?

VR is used in the healthcare industry for a range of purposes, from simulation training to patient education rehabilitation and therapy. VR holds the key to revolutionizing the way doctors are trained and treatment is delivered. 

3 new ways healthcare will be affected by VR technology:

1. VR training will feel real-life, at zero risks for the patient.

When thinking about a healthcare professional’s education, we visualize textbooks, videos and assisting time during practical hours, but the question is whether this is enough. 

“We’re using 21st century tools in a 20th century learning environment Thomas Murray, State and District Digital Learning Policy and Advocacy Director for Alliance for Education.

With VR, medical education and training is enhanced for all; surgeons, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, etc., so they are fully prepared before treating their first patient. 

VR for the ER enables emergency responders to train before catastrophes occur to ensure effective responses. VR for nurses facilitates exposure to real-world clinical problems. VR for surgeons empowers them to train full procedures before their first operation. 

VR anatomical models of patients for preoperative planning have been used to guide surgeons through patients’ unique bodies. “I can figure out how best to approach a tumor and practice it so that when I get into the operation, it’s as if I’ve been there before,” said Dr. Gary Steinberg, Stanford University’s head of neurosurgery. 

Stanford knows the importance of this technology, having launched their first ever only VR taught class and funding XR incubators for healthcare.

VR takes training to a new level, solving the problems of traditional training. 

  • VR is flexible: healthcare professionals can train from anywhere, even their homes. 
  • VR is repeatable: scenarios are reiterated unlimited times, until the learner is fully confident. 
  • VR is affordable: software prices can be shared within institutions, training more professionals at a lower cost.

2. Healthcare practices will be boosted with VR

Everyday healthcare practices can be improved with VR technology. 

Surgeries with VR technology

Today, surgeries can be performed with the help of a robot that is controlled by a surgeon (e.g. robotic arm). Robotic surgery has many advantages including fewer complications, less blood loss and faster recovery times. Robotic surgery also eliminates human error and reduces the risk of infection.

Phobia treatment with VR 

Virtual reality exposure therapy empowers patients to work through their fears from the comfort and safety of the therapist office. NHS Foundation Trust has already introduced VR and speaks of its immersivity and authenticity, specially useful for scenarios difficult to recreate such as needle phobia, or flight phobias. Addiction treatment therapists are also using VR to personalize therapy for detoxification, fighting cravings and relaxation.

Pain Management with VR 

Angela Li’s research supports the usage of VR technology to relieve pain due to its multimodal distracting nature away from the pain itself. VR has been applied to pediatrics and women giving labor, among other scenarios.

Rehabilitation with VR

VR-based therapy provides a motivating and engaging method for patients. Clinicians are using VR because they can fully prescribe and tailor exercises. Data is also accurately tracked, quantifying patient’s progress. With VR, the possibilities are endless. 

3. VR will transform Patient Communication and Empathy

Virtual reality may be the best tool for communicating the effects of certain lifestyle practices and noxious substances on the body, such as the growth of particular tumors, obesity and related metabolic dysfunctions, and the impact of smoking that may negatively impact lung and liver function, respectively.

In case surgery is necessary, virtual reality provides doctors and patients with a detailed reconstruction of the organs and tissues that affect their health. VR empowers patients, by explaining their condition, assisting them in understanding the necessary treatment. This increases patient satisfaction and effectiveness, as they fully comprehend what they should do, why and what the consequences are.  

Sue Dean’s research also explores the uses of VR to increase empathy. By walking into the patient’s shoes, healthcare professionals leave with humility. The advantages include listening more to patients and providing more personalized and friendlier treatment. 

How can you adapt to the Healthcare VR Revolution?

In the past thirty years, virtual reality has evolved from a radical research topic to a valuable clinical tool. Visit MetaMedicsVR to become efficient and secure using affordable VR technology. Whether you are a surgeon, practitioner, nurse or psychiatrist, there is a tailored solution for your needs. Schedule now a free 15-minute consulting call.