From firefighter simulators to travel and tour immersive marketing, virtual reality (VR) continues to expand its reach with a wide variety of uses in different fields. Formerly dominated by gamers, VR has evolved into a technology that innovates industries in ways that you can only imagine possible in sci-fi movies.
In fact, in recent years, hospitals and other medical facilities have started opening its doors to this new-age technology with a new era of therapy and healthcare services. Starting with an immersive training program for a new breed of medical practitioners, the healthcare industry has also opened several treatment programs using VR.
To be more specific, here are five ways VR is changing the present state of healthcare for a better future:
1. Immersive Medical Training
Education is one of the few industries that found great use of virtual reality technology. Working from the premise that students learn better when all their senses are activated, VR is now used in the training and education of future medical professionals.
VR adds a new dimension to learning in the medical field – both literally and figuratively. This technology allows would-be doctors to perform a close-up exploration of the human body without having to train on actual people. In fact, experts in the field of VR are already working with scientists to create programs that would depict not only what the organs look like, but how they move and function as well.
2. Non-Drug-Based Pain Management
Pain management is critical in medical treatments and therapies. VR has been found to alleviate both acute and chronic pain without the use of any drug. Health care experts were able to establish how patients who are experiencing acute pain can benefit from escaping to a virtual world.
Now, they discovered that it can work with chronic pain, too.
How? By preventing the brain from processing the pain signals with immersive motion and visual experiences. In short, VR distracts the brain from the pain. It also helps enhance the effectiveness of certain therapeutic treatments like meditation by transporting the patient to a more relaxing environment other than the hospital.
3. Off-Site Rehabilitation
Virtual reality may be the solution to the stigma attached to entering rehabilitation that causes many addicts to forgo the treatment. Instead of physically entering rehabilitation centers, the patients can utilize VR to undergo the treatment while in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.
This doesn’t only apply to rehabilitation from addiction. VR can also be used to make physical therapy more fun and exciting and, in turn, boost the patient’s likelihood to finish the treatment.
And since the platform makes use of a wearable device, VR can also measure user interaction in the designed environment and adjust it to optimize the rehabilitation benefits that the patients get from the treatment.
4. Better Patient Education to Reduce Anxiety
Failing to understand a diagnosis is considered a major source of anxiety for patients. To remedy this, some hospitals make use of virtual reality to educate patients about their own health, the symptoms and adverse effects of their illness, and their treatment options.
Understanding what’s happening in their body would help lessen the patients’ source of anxiety and allow them to make informed choices about their healthcare. Offering this type of added service to them also promotes a deeper trust between patients and the healthcare provider.
5. Assisting Mental Health Treatment
Mental health experts have also found that exposure therapy, a treatment used to deal with anxiety, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), can become even more effective with the help of VR. This method involves simulating a source of anxiety or fear to help the patient gradually cope.
With VR, medical practitioners can provide patients with a more immersive exposure to their “triggers.”
Patients suffering from PTSD, for example, can undergo repurposed VR shooting games to overcome their trauma from the battlefield. During the simulation, a medical professional will ask questions about how they feel about the scenario and adjust details about the experience to create a more effective treatment.
VR and the Future of Medicine
VR production companies are contributing to the improvement of healthcare and patient welfare in their own unique way. From improving medical personnel training to dealing with anxiety and stigma, VR is revolutionizing the field of medicine today and promising more beneficial capabilities in the future.
Judit Chackal is responsible for the marketing, communication and business development efforts of Reach MENA and its sister company, SENSE-R, the leading MENA-based virtual reality developer for VR branding projects and Industrial Training Simulators. She has over a decade of experience in delivering strategic marketing & business development visions for global clients in the travel, hospitality, events and education sectors. Her passion for content and experiential marketing led her to the field of virtual reality project development.