From product design to real estate, many industries have adopted VR and related technologies, and nowhere are the benefits of VR greater than in the medical sector.
We are seeing more and more of this incorporated faster than ever, and VR has reached a turning point in medicine from several points of view.
The first is training. Now future doctors, doctors and nurses can face internships with VR sessions that bring them closer to situations they will live in the most imminent future, as realistically and as possible. What used to cost thousands of euros or dollars and several months of work, can now be achieved in just a few hours and very little cost thanks to platforms and companies like Simlab IT.
On the other hand, in the practice of the profession. The daily life of hospitals, doctors and patients may change in the near future, and in fact it is already doing so. If doctors use VR equipment, so do their patients. They are using their hearing aids to immerse themselves in a peaceful virtual world that takes away the discomfort associated with medical problems and treatments.
How is VR being used in the medical field?
We thought it convenient to analyze in this post how VR is being used in medicine. Here are some cases of use that are currently in the practice of procedures within the medical field with VR. All of these cases are in continuous development as the technology itself develops.
Best Practices for Medical and Nursing Students
In contrast to the cost of simulating operations on corpses, limbs or organs, virtual reality simulations can bring higher quality training to a greater number of students at a much lower cost, both in terms of money and time.
The training in virtual reality, gives data that can be analyzed
The Big Data that will leave the training lessons in Virtual Reality, will allow Universities, Organizations and Hospitals to improve the quality of their services and studies.
Access to privileged information more easily
Today, only a handful of medical students can attend an operation and look over a surgeon’s shoulder. Virtual reality can take the experience of learning and teaching medicine to a higher level by allowing surgeons to perform operations globally using a virtual reality camera. Medical students, on the other hand, can wear their VR glasses, enter the operating room and see all the procedures and tricks performed down to the last detail.
VR for rehabilitation
VR also helps patients overcome balance and mobility problems resulting from stroke or head injury.
VR for pain relief
Because anesthesia and sedation can be risky for some patients, including those who are frail or very elderly, some hospitals are offering these VR earphones as a way to help control pain during minimally invasive procedures.
Research has shown that VR-mediated rehabilitation can accelerate the rate at which these patients regain their physical capabilities. There is a long way to go to conduct all the research needed to validate these results and make these techniques part of routine practice, but we are getting closer and closer.
One treatment for patients with phobias is exposure therapy. In one case, some psychiatrists are using VR to help patients deal with fears of things like flying or claustrophobia.
VR experiences provide a controlled environment in which patients can confront their fears and even practice coping strategies, as well as break patterns of avoidance, all in a private, safe environment that is easy to stop or repeat, depending on the circumstances.
Treatment for PTSD
Similar to exposure therapy for phobias and anxieties, virtual reality is being used to help soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some clinics and hospitals are using virtual reality simulations of war similar to those in Iraq and Afghanistan to help veterans who, in many ways, are continually reliving the traumatic events they experienced. In a safe and controlled environment, they can learn to deal with instances that might otherwise trigger behavior that could be destructive to themselves and others.
The training of surgeons usually includes cadavers and a gradual process of assisting the more experienced physicians before taking over the larger tasks and parts of the surgery. Virtual reality could provide another means of practice, without any risk to real patients.
Stanford University, for example, has a surgery simulator that even includes haptic feedback for those who do the training. Stanford’s endoscopic breast surgery simulation uses computerized tomography scans of patients to create 3D models for practice, and has been in use since 2002. Although this technology does not use a head-mounted screen, the groundwork that has been done could increase the effectiveness of future virtual simulations.
In “phantom limb assimilation”
For people who lose a limb, a common medical problem is phantom limb pain. For example, someone without an arm may feel as if they are clenching their fist too tightly, unable to relax. Often, the pain is sharper than that, even unbearable. Previous treatments have included mirror therapy, in which the patient looked at a mirror image of the limb he still has, perhaps, and found relief as the brain synchronized with the movements of real and ghost limbs.
In a similar vein, virtual reality games can help alleviate the pain of phantom limbs. Patients use a virtual limb and must complete tasks. It helps them have some control and learn, for example, to relax that painfully clenched fist.
Social Cognition Training for Young Adults with Autism
Teachers at the University of Texas, Dallas, created a training program to help children with autism work on social skills. It uses brain imaging and brain wave monitoring, and essentially puts children in situations like job interviews or blind dates using avatars. They work on reading social cues and expressing socially acceptable behavior. The study found that after completing the program, the participants’ brain scans showed increased activity in areas of the brain related to social understanding.
Opportunities for the homebound
There is a certain degree of concern around virtual reality that has to do with what will happen when people can go anywhere and do anything through VR headphones, they may not go anywhere in real life in favor of retiring to an ideal virtual world. The point is, for those who don’t have the ability to get out into the real world, whether disabled or elderly, virtual reality could improve their quality of life when they would otherwise be confined to a single residence, room or even a bed.
From autism and low vision to chronic pain, VR immersion technology is proving to be a revolutionary solution for cases where conventional methods fail. In addition, it provides an affordable and safe way for patients to improve their lives and regain the life they have lost due to pain or other health-related problems. With all this in mind, it will not surprise us that VR therapies will occupy a central place in the healthcare system in the near future.
If you want to be part of this health revolution, and increasingly more sectors through immersion in VR processes, contact us. We are creating a network of partners and collaborators to make this possibility of improving training and health reach the largest number of corners of the world.
Our company has just obtained approval, along with the Karolinska Institute, the University of Leeds, the Open Knowledge Foundation, the University of Thessaloniki and many other medical training institutions through the Erasmus+ program. The aim of this project is to revolutionize medical simulations using VR/AR technologies to facilitate international collaboration in medical education.