Technology is revolutionizing the future of healthcare sector with telemedicine, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, the Internet of Things and a whole host of others geared at providing better healthcare for the populace. Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated interactive experience in a simulated environment. As a result, VR makes it possible to experience anything, anytime and at any location. Virtual reality aims to achieve total immersion with an incorporation of visual and auditory feedback, as well as other senses (haptic which deals with touch) and this immersive environment can either be similar to real-world or fantastical. Current virtual reality technology includes head-mounted displays with headsets and hand controllers to provide a fully immersive experience.
Healthcare is rapidly becoming a major user of virtual reality and also a great benefactor of the ingenious use of technology like this. Virtual Reality solutions can be adopted in surgery simulation, treatments, robotic surgery, skills training, nursing, and patient education purposes.
VR solutions can be applied in the healthcare sector in four major areas and they include: Creation of new easier and better ways to treat patients with neuropsychological problems,
creating better training grounds for medical professionals as well as providing interface to interact with others, potential tool for pain relief, and providing an enabling therapeutic experience for patients with chronic and debilitating illness and disabilities.
A closer look at how Virtual Reality can be applied in each of these areas will better our understanding of the subject matter.
Innovative Tool in Treatment of Neuropsychological Problems
This is one of the major contributions of VR to the healthcare sector. It deals with treating neuropsychological conditions of the brain and nervous system which influence a patient’s cognitive behavior. One of such tools under this is exposure therapy employed in treating post-traumatic stress disorders (PSTD) and phobias.
For sufferers from phobias, environments are being created with the application of VR to exacerbate the patient’s condition in a safe and controlled way. This is important, as a part of their recovery process involves the development of coping strategies and this offers a safe environment to practice these strategies.
As a result of slowly exposing them to situations that allow them to employ their coping strategies, they will be able to manage their condition effectively in a real-life situation.
VR in Training and Education of Healthcare Professionals and Patients
VR can be applied in the practical training and education of healthcare providers like nurses, doctors, etc. Virtual reality in surgery provides an avid opportunity to be fully immersed in a situation that is nearly identical to a real-life operation. Simulators can provide a great way to teach and train surgeons, assist nurses, and other medical professionals in the health sector. An example of this is the HumanSim system which enables medical professionals to interact with others in an interactive environment. The training scenarios created are to enable professionals to interact with a patient but in a 3D environment only.
Emergency departments involved with life-changing procedure have begun to make use of VR as an apt training tool. For as the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’.
Pain Relief and Management
Distraction therapy is employed in treating pain. Cool! VR pain relief is an example that uses a virtual world of landscapes and changing seasons to distract a patient while providing relief to pain. VR video games can also be used to distract a patient.
Therapy for Persons with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses
This application of VR is not a constituent of the treatment of these diseases or disabilities, but it has helped in encouraging new approaches to understanding and improving quality of life for people.Virtual reality has helped a lot in the medical field as persons with disabilities who couldn’t experience one thing or the other, have been able to do so now. They have helped paralyzed people learn to walk again. There are many other therapeutic uses of VR technology and the list cannot be exhausted.
Though the sector is still developing, hopefully, there will be major breakthroughs in the field of Virtual Reality technology that will set a new standard for global healthcare.
Alex Barker is a full-time Pharmacist, media company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He is also is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps busy professionals build successful side businesses.