Healthcare is one of the biggest adopters of virtual reality which encompasses surgery simulation, phobia treatment, robotic surgery and skills training. One of the advantages of this technology is that it allows healthcare professionals to learn new skills as well as refreshing existing ones in a safe environment. Plus it allows this without causing any danger to the patients. From developing new life-saving techniques to training the doctors of the future, VR has a multitude of applications for health and healthcare, from the clinical to the consumer. And by 2020, the global market could be worth upwards of $3.8 billion. Below, we discuss some of the ways Virtual Reality is being used to train & support healthcare professionals, change lives and heal patients.
Virtual Reality has the ability to transport you inside the human body – to access & view areas that otherwise would be impossible to reach. Currently, medical students learn on cadavers, which are difficult to get hold of and (obviously) do not react in the same way a live patient would. In VR however, you can view minute detail of any part of the body in stunning 360° CGI reconstruction & create training scenarios which replicate common surgical procedures.
VR’s healing capabilities aren’t just limited to psychological issues, but have been proved to work for pain management & physical treatment too. A study by the University of Washington Seattle and the UW Harborview Burn Centre showed that full VR immersion for those undergoing physical therapy after a skin graft acted as a distraction and subsequently reduced pain levels for the patients. VR for physical therapy has also been shown to be effective in speeding up recovery time. Allowing the patient to do their prescribed daily exercises in a virtual environment makes the activity more fun, keeps the patient focused, and helps them keep their spirits up during what can be a long recovery period.
Marketing was the most popular initial application of VR across all industries, and it continues to be an extremely powerful & effective marketing tool. We recently created a VR experience for Bayer (which we can’t talk about unfortunately) to advertise a new product of theirs, and GlaxoSmithKline built VR into the core of its “The Migraine Experience” campaign. In the experience, migraine sufferers selected the symptoms of their migraine and then handed the VR headset over to their non-migraine-sufferer partner to experience a migraine first-hand, albeit without the pain. The headset replicated some of the effects of a migraine, including blind spots, auras, sensitivity to light, thumping headache, and disorientation. GSK worked with migraine experts and technology VR experts on the campaign. GSK also released an app version, so that anyone can download it at home and trial the experience on their smartphone.
Pharmaceutical research & development company AbbVie created an experience to raise awareness amongst healthcare professionals of the daily struggle of patients suffering from Parkinsons disease. The experience was demo-ed at a pharmaceutical industry trade show where people could put on a headset and experience first hand as a Parkinsons sufferer navigates a virtual supermarket, encountering awkward moments when coming into contact with other people.
The ability to view the inside of the human body in Virtual Reality is not only useful for doctors, but also for patients. VR allows patients to be taken through their surgical plan by virtually stepping into a patient-specific 360° VR reconstruction of their anatomy & pathology. The result – enhanced understanding of the treatment, and consequently higher patient satisfaction.
Mental Health & Psychological Therapy: VR’s unique ability to transport you somewhere else can be used to create powerful simulations of the scenarios in which psychological difficulties occur. No longer does a therapist need to accompany a client on a trip to a crowded shopping centre, for example, or up a tall building. Situations that are impractical or impossible to recreate — flying, for example, or the harrowing events that can lie behind PTSD — can be conjured at the click of a mouse. The in-situ coaching that’s so effective for so many disorders can now be delivered in the consulting room, with the simulations graded in difficulty and repeated as often as necessary.
A lot of the applications mentioned above are still in their infancy (the same could be said for VR as a whole). In the coming years, VR will be used more and more to improve the accuracy & effectiveness of current procedures, and enhance the capabilities of the human being, both as the care-giver and the patient. Quite simply, the potential for VR in the healthcare sector is huge, limited only by the creativity & ingenuity of those creating and applying the technology.
As a vr company nsocial creates gamification experiences by using virtual reality. you can check how vr used in health learning and training as a gamification tool from here. interested for projects? drop an email!