Some trends come and go — and some stick around indefinitely.
Virtual reality within the healthcare space is not going anywhere, anytime soon.
Over 240 hospitals in the U.S. are using virtual reality to assist various health-related procedures, and support patients in helping understand their treatment options. The virtual reality market in healthcare is projected to reach $6.9 Billion by 2026.
Understanding the Role of Virtual Reality in Healthcare
The terms ‘augmented reality’ and ‘virtual reality’ are sometimes confused.
According to Healthcare Weekly, Virtual reality creates an immersive experience by providing the user with images of 3D-environments. “As part of this virtual experience, the user can sometimes change or alter the appearance of the environment. As for augmented reality, this simply adds graphics or sound to a real-life environment and augmented reality glasses are then used to bring the experience to life.”
Here are some of the most common methods in which virtual reality is used in healthcare:
- Smart Tech Glasses – Smart glasses may appear as regular glasses, but they display information which can enable a physician to add pertinent data to the patient’s EHR. There are also prototype models which would allow the glasses to use similar features as a Head-Mounted Display.
- Head-Mounted Display – This is likely the most recognizable example; oversized, bulky goggles with earphones attached. The engineering of this device offers a true surround-sound and visual experience.
- Desktop Virtual Reality – This application is typically used for training purposes. A desktop virtual reality technology is an efficient way to simulate complex programs and procedures.
- Haptic Gloves and Treadmills – Users can manipulate and move inside of the virtual reality encounter, as well as move objects with ultra smart gloves.
Virtual Reality Examples in Healthcare
Relaxing Patients in the Hospital: Resting in a hospital, confined to a sterile-smelling environment, away from family — can be nothing short of mind-numbing. Counting down the days to discharge is a favorite pastime of patients.
Patients, particularly children, are worried about their condition, and missing their loved ones. However, there are companies such as VisitU who provide patients with a downloadable app and virtual glasses, enabling them to get in touch with their loved ones around the clock. Medical-based virtual reality is a simple way for friends and family to foster relationships with someone who has been admitted to the hospital, cutting down on stressful travel time to / from the hospital.
Observing Operations: Typically in teaching hospitals, only a select amount of medical students may attend or observe an operation. Virtual reality has the ability to bring the studying and learning experience in medicine to a deeper level by offering surgeons the opportunity to stream cases globally using a virtual reality camera. And now, medical students can now use virtual reality goggles, “step” into the operating room, and witness details of the surgery. Real-time access can be given to all interested parties who choose to participate in the operation.
Rehabilitation: Virtual reality is synonymous with entertainment since it can offer thrilling experiences. This exciting tool also has a role in healthcare.
Researchers found that people are more likely to stick to a rehab program if they have access to virtual reality. Physical therapy is much more fun and appealing in a virtual world. Understandably, oftentimes patients do not want to go into a clinic for treatment. With virtual reality, they can benefit from treatment in the luxury of their own home.
This is Only the Beginning
Virtual reality, while impressive and futuristic in nature, is still in its infancy. It can be difficult to fathom how this technology isn’t just a buzzword.
But the truth is that, despite the hype and hashtag trends, virtual reality technology is truly enhancing and improving patients’ lives from across the globe. We’re only just getting started on truly experiencing its full capabilities.
To learn more about trending gadgets and artificial intelligence technologies in 2019, check out our blog post.