Many potential applications of VR in healthcare

Healthcare is a major adopter of virtual reality (VR) technology, which offers huge potential to improve results and enhance the patient experience, according to a recent Samsung Insights article.

Writer Megan Williams says that the healthcare industry has already embraced VR to simulate surgery, treat phobias and simplify the diagnosis process, but its potential has also become evident in new areas, including:

Pain relief

To counter the overprescription of opioids for chronic pain, the industry is looking to alternative treatments, including VR.

“While VR has proven successful in addressing procedural and acute pain through distraction, the use of the technology to address chronic pain is relatively new, but showing promise,” Williams writes.

She points to a study published last year in PLOS ONE which showed that patients with chronic pain who had a five-minute VR session saw a decrease in pain ratings.

Further developments in this area are likely.

Enhancing robotic surgery

Virtual robotic surgery combines virtual reality with telemedicine, allowing a human surgeon to perform actions that are executed by a robotic device that is performing the actual operation. The tactical feedback which a surgeon gets when directly operating on a patient is handled through ‘force feedback’, allowing evaluation of the optimal amount of pressure needed, Williams explains.

This technology has been shown to decrease the time needed to perform an operation and the risk of complications.

Keeping older people alert and happy

If you think VR technology is just for the young, think again. A VR platform developed by MIT startup Rendever connects residents of assisted-living facilities with the outside world, helping to fight isolation and factors that contribute to depression.

Rendever’s platform, which uses Samsung Gear VR headsets, allows residents to revisit their homes as well as other memories such as their favourite park. What’s more, it has the ability to track movement data to help identify dementia in its early stages.

Improving stroke care

VR can also help stroke patients to recover more quickly. For example, a neurorehabilitation app called MindMotion Pro helps patients relearn how to use their arms and fingers, encouraging early motor rehabilitation.

As well as supporting individual recovery goals, the technology can help ensure better patient performance monitoring.

The major advantage of VR is that it can diffuse what can sometimes be unpleasant experiences for patients. With so much of the industry focused on patient satisfaction and the patient experience, the use of VR is only set to grow.

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