Medical VR goes totally against conventional beliefs about technology, such as making health care less humane, less empathetic and less caring.
But the truth is that virtual reality teaches empathy to medical students, makes the vaccination of children less painful, helps to get rid of fears by treating phobias, as well as alleviates chronic pain or satisfies the last wishes of the dying.
All these uses have been discovered thanks to studies, innovations, bets that Universities and Organizations around the world have been making in recent years.
Now we know that training and the application of virtual reality to health, learning and any sector of society can only lead to progress and improvement.
The multiple faces of virtual medical reality
Although the use of virtual reality in healthcare is not yet widespread, the technology is very promising. Goldman Sachs already estimated in its 2016 report that 8 million doctors and medical technicians could make use of augmented reality or virtual reality products worldwide – and the number of users could grow from an estimated 0.8 million in 2020 to 3.4 million by 2025.
Medical education, surgery, rehabilitation medicine, psychiatry and psychology could all benefit from VR. Doctors will be able to help in the operating room without having to lift a scalpel or prepare for complex surgeries efficiently. Medical students will be able to study the human body more closely and prepare for real-life operations.
However, patients will benefit the most. Virtual reality can support better management of chronic pain, treat fears and phobias, or help survive medical events, from labor pain to vaccination. For example, virtual reality not only makes rehabilitation of neck, spinal or other injuries faster and easier, but it can also escape the confinement of your hospital room and travel to Iceland.
All these cases illustrate that medical VR is an excellent tool for addressing the issues that make healthcare travel for patients more enjoyable: relieving pain, dispelling fear, offering more empathy and care. Here we have brought together the best examples of how technology can make healthcare more enjoyable.
Medical VR: The future of medicine and health will be virtual
The future of surgery offers an amazing cooperation between humans and technology, which could raise the level of precision and efficiency of surgeries so high that we have never seen before.
Will we have small surgical robots like the Matrix robots? Will they remove organs from patients’ bodies?
The scene is not impossible. We seem to have come a long way from ancient Egypt, where doctors performed invasive surgeries 3,500 years ago.
Just two years ago, NASA partnered with the American medical company Virtual Incision to develop a robot that can be placed inside a patient’s body and then remotely controlled by a surgeon.
That’s why I strongly believe that doctors need to reconsider their stance toward technology and the future of their profession.
Doctors need to rethink their profession
Doctors are at the top of the health food chain. At least that is the general public’s impression of the popular medical drama series and their own experiences. It’s no surprise. Physicians have enormous responsibilities: they can cause irreparable damage and medical miracles with a single incision in the patient’s body.
Not surprisingly, with the rise of digital technologies, operating theatres and surgeons are inundated with new devices designed to make as few cuts as possible.
We have to deal with these new surgical technologies so that everyone understands that they expand the capabilities of surgeons rather than replace them.
Doctors also tend to distance themselves from patients. The human touch is not necessarily the quintessence of their work. However, as technological solutions come into practice by taking on some of their repetitive tasks, I would advise them to reconsider their position.
Treating patients with empathy before and after surgery would ensure that their services are irreplaceable also in the era of robotics and artificial intelligence.
However, as a first step, the society of surgeons has to become familiar with the current state of technology affecting the operating room and its work.
For the first time in the history of medicine, in April 2016, cancer surgeon Shafi Ahmed performed an operation using a virtual reality camera at Royal London Hospital. It’s an amazingly big step for surgery. Everyone was able to participate in the operation in real time through the Medical Realities website and the application of VR in the operating room. Whether it’s a promising Cape Town medical student, an interested journalist from Seattle or a concerned relative, they could all follow through two 360-degree cameras how the surgeon removed cancerous tissue from the patient’s intestine.
This opens new horizons for both medical education and surgeon training. VR could take the experience of teaching and learning in medicine to a whole new level.
Today, only a few students can look over the surgeon’s shoulder during an operation. In this way, it is a challenge to learn the tricks of the trade. By using VR, surgeons can perform operations around the world and allow medical students to actually be in the operating room wearing their VR glasses. The SimlabIT company allows you to create VR lessons as well as simulations that help the traditional medical education process for radiologists, surgeons and physicians, firefighters, and anyone who wants to do a virtual reality lesson.