Healthcare is one of the largest and most interesting industries to watch when it comes to new technologies. Not only is it extremely fulfilling, but it also forces innovators to create under safety-critical constraints. When it comes to healthcare, there seem to be 4 main areas of focus of VR innovators, each with numerous applications.
Student Training and Procedure Simulation
Some of the earliest applications of modern VR came in the medical field and were used for training students. This is an obvious direction to take the technology as students can experience medical procedures first-hand without actually being in the room. A doctor can only have so many students peering over their shoulder when performing surgery, and getting shadowing positions is difficult for students.
Virtual reality is playing a big part in reducing barriers to entry for medical education by opening up these experiences to a wider audience. Further than students, these simulations can be viewed by anyone from prospective medical students to interested spectators. This can serve to popularize the medical field (a need for the rapidly growing industry) and help friends and family understand what doctors do, or what is being done to patients during an operation.
When a family is concerned or confused about a procedure, the doctors can guide them through it using VR much more effectively than most other means. Seeing from a doctor’s eye view is useful, but seeing from a view that isn’t even humanly possible is even more interesting; you can take a look from inside the body, you can fly around the operating room. The perspectives available are endless. However, something that complicated isn’t required; one doctor even used something as simple as the Snapchat spectacles to record and share a video to the tune of 2 million views and 50 million tweets. This shows how hungry the public is for a doctor’s point of view during a surgery and the potential value of these videos to students and the public. Having great VR visualizations of procedures can be an amazingly valuable resource.
Patient Entertainment & Distraction
Hospital beds are immensely uncomfortable places. When you’re due for a procedure, they are anxiety inducing, when recovering they’re mind-numbingly boring. Both often come attached with pain and everything is amplified ten-fold when it comes to children. Hospitals are in need of a superior solution.
Entertaining and calming patients is one of the forgotten, yet extremely important functions of patient care. Anxiety and depression are unhealthy and greatly slow down recovery times of patients, costing everyone involved money, time and stress. Hospitals want to make room for more patients, patients want to go home, family members don’t want to keep going to the hospital, everyone involved is paying money. Not a good situation. Luckily VR provides a great solution:
Far more than traditional entertainment, VR’s immersiveness makes it easy to forget that you’re in a hospital at all. Dutch company VisitU allows children to teleport themselves home, or to a birthday party, or a football game. This is huge in patient comfort, providing a reprieve from the same hospital bed and room, and really helps with homesickness.
Past casual entertainment, VR has been used during procedures for patients to help them remain calm and relaxed. From use during chemotherapy to MRIs, patients can gain relief from the often frightening procedures and environments they’re put in.
All these anxiety-reducing activities pay dividends in medical staff time, hospital bed time, and patient time. Salaries and living arrangements are the biggest costs in a hospital, reducing these using VR can have huge dividends to a bottom line, while also providing superior care and service to patients.
As shown VR has a huge variety of uses in the medical field. Join us next time to see the other big applications of VR in medicine, as well as learn about our collaboration with fellow UT Dallas startup Neuro Rehab VR.