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Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) has made a major imprint among workplaces and in consumers’ lives.

 VR, is often found in gaming, digital entertainment, and retail shopping. One example is the eye glass company, Warby Parker, who take the guesswork out of online shopping for frames with a 3D virtual “try-on” tool. The 3D virtual “try-on” tool allows the remote shopper to try on various frames on their face shape without having to visit the store. Among all of the industries VR has infiltrated healthcare has arguably experienced the most impactful changes. Over the last several years, VR has positively enhanced patients’ outcomes and surgeons’ performance.

Within the healthcare market VR is projected to reach over $30 billion on a global scale within the next six years, displaying a CAGR of 42.4% from 2019-2026.

Here are 3 key areas where VR is positively transforming the healthcare industry.

Pain Management

Pain management is an escalating healthcare concern in the United States with approximately 100 million adults suffering from chronic pain. Consequently, the U.S. has consumed 80% of the world’s opioids to mask the pain. Given those staggering numbers, it’s not shocking that an estimated $17 billion is generated from purchasing pain medication every year. Although opioid prescriptions are a common solution to managing pain, it comes with several downsides including delays in recovery, an increase in patient admissions to hospitals, rising healthcare costs, and even mortality.

VR is surfacing as a feasible alternative solution for patients managing chronic pain and is also being leveraged to alleviate fear in patients having serious medical procedures. VR headsets were tested at a hospital in the UK, and reported to have a reduction in the anxiety levels of patients during surgeries where they were fully conscious. Nearly all participating patients’ responses were relaxed, 80% experienced less pain after wearing the headset, and over 70% noted a reduction in anxiety.

Medical Training

VR technology is being utilized to teach medical students, train surgeons, and is practiced in rehabilitation for patients suffering from strokes.

The Harvard Business Review published a study, indicating that training with virtual reality enhanced the participants’ overall surgical performance by more than 200%, vs. traditional training practices. Additionally, participants being trained by VR completed the procedures 20% quicker and more precisely.

At the Cleveland Clinic’s medical school, in collaboration with Zygote Medical Education, students are using VR to learn and experience the clinical environment through a virtual anatomy course. 

VR technology is also being utilized as a tool to increase empathy for the elderly population among medical trainees and practitioners. The University of New England shared a study with results of VR showing it, “enhanced students understanding of age-related health problems” and improved their level of empathy for those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Autism Spectrum

VR also has benefitted the lives of children and adults with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). Yale’s School of Medicine together with the Center for BrainHealth has partnered together to support young adults with ASD. Their goal is to help young adults with ASD achieve financial and social independence. VR enables real-life experiences in a controlled environment and can be safely repeated for practice.

In general, VR provides a novel ability to enhance patient care, medical procedures, and training. This innovative technology will further improve patient outcomes in ways we cannot quite imagine, an ultimately benefit the entire ecosystem of our healthcare.

Come back later this month to learn more about VR breakthroughs in our blog.