Virtual reality, or VR, while still far from being mainstream, has proven itself as a technology with great potential in the fields of interactive entertainment, while also having many applications in scientific fields and nearly every avenue of business. From the automotive sector, to aviation, HR and more, every sector stands to benefit from VR implementation.
After all, VR use within businesses is forecasted to grow from $829 million in 2018 to $4.26 billion in 2023, according to ARtillery Intelligence.
Here are 5 ways the healthcare sector is implementing VR tech.
1. Robotic surgery training
As we see more technology used to assist surgeons in their operations, there is a growing need for means to train existing professionals on these new complex tools.
Take the Da Vinci robot system, for example, which is a machine a surgeon operates during an operation that results in minimally invasive procedures and faster recovery times. To learn using a machine like this, surgeons are put in a VR environment, where they have to use the robot console almost like a video game, to operate on virtual sample patients.
2. Surgery planning
In addition to training, VR tech can be used in the surgery field in other ways as well.
A US company like ImmersiveTouch, for example, creates fully explorable 3D virtual reality models from a patient’s own CT and MR data, which allows doctors to plan a surgery beforehand down to the finest details. Since this is all done in a virtual environment, there are no repercussions for medical professionals making errors while trying to find the best approach to a complex operation. The tech also allows for 360-degree maneuvering, allowing doctors to inspect an organ from different angles, magnifications and even different layers.
3. Treating mental illness
Today, there is a lot we are still learning about treating mental health issues. Now, VR is on track to be the next tool in psychiatrists’ arsenal.
“Just as an aircraft simulator serves to test and train piloting ability across a range of systematic and controllable conditions, virtual reality can be similarly used to test, train, teach, and treat human functioning, all within the context of a clinical office,” said Dr. Albert Rizzo, author of Virtual Reality for Psychological and Neurocognitive Interventions, a medical professional famed for his use of VR in treating mental conditions.
Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) is one way the technology is being used, considered an alternative to vivo exposure, where doctors directly expose patients to phobias and other causes of anxiety, such as snakes, the sea or even heights. ‘
4. Treating autism
To this day, autism remains an area of much discussion, with no clear cure. Now, VR could provide autism patients with a new tool to assist them with their day to day life.
“Autism therapists and researchers started to use VR in the mid-1990s,” Sol Rogers, CEO and Founder of VR content production agency REWIND, writes for Forbes. “Researchers often deployed the technology to create virtual environments to help autistic people prepare for encounters or situations that could be stressful.”
VR can be used to prepare a person suffering from an autism disorder for real-life world encounters like job interviews, large group gatherings, and even public speaking.
5. Diagnosing diseases and conditions
Some conditions like Alzheimer’s can be tricky to detect early on. With technology like VR now available, medical professionals have many more tools at their disposal to detect these illusive conditions, since virtual reality allows for a high-level of freedom and flexibility.
According to the Scientific American, a 2016 study in the UK created a VR test that “asks participants to navigate between a sequence of landmarks in a simple 3-D landscape. Each landmark disappears once it is reached; at the end of the test, the subject is asked to navigate back to the location of the first landmark. The patient’s ability to find the correct spot predicted whether they would develop Alzheimer’s with 93 percent accuracy, compared to only 64 percent and 79 percent accuracy of the pen-and-paper tests.”
In conjunction with physical medical testing and sampling, VR could help us get a leg up on diagnosing this illusive condition early on.