Virtual reality has been growing in popularity over the last decade. Much of this is due to advances in both software and hardware. As these products have continued in development, the user experience has become more lifelike and interactively responsive.
This means that more and more people are becoming interested in VR and what it has to offer. Some consider it to be the future of entertainment, while others insist it is just a fad. Either way, it has added a new dimension for how we view interactive experiences.
While it has mostly been marked to the public as a new form of gaming console, it has a new distinct use that may outlast all other purposes.
Virtual reality as a tool for medical intervention
When new technology is developed we often see uses that we did not expect. This is one of those. However, now that is has become clear that there are great advantages to VR in the world of medicine programs are advancing quickly.
Medical and surgical training
VR provides hands-on training in an interactive environment without the risk of hurting anyone. This has the potential to increase the speed that a student can become proficient in procedures. This can also increase skills in specific areas by adjusting the scenario.
The areas of training that this can be applied to are extensive. It can help surgeons gain the ability to perform an operation without the concern for actual harm. Intensive Care Unit staff are using it to practice emergency procedures and hone skills that are limited by time.
It is providing paramedics and other first responders with timed scenarios that change and adjust for increased difficulty. It is even being used in dentistry to educate students on how to use a drill and apply appropriate pressure. Overall, this will provide better care for patients and healthier outcomes.
By 3D mapping organs and other areas of the body, we can give medical professionals the opportunity to study an issue and find a solution. They can observe an organ or section of the body from all angles and become better prepared.
This allows for better planning of a complex surgery by physically organizing it in a virtual world. They have the ability to place an image of an organ that is in health condition next to an image of the organ they are operating on and compare the differences from every perspective. This can allow for precision when operating or applying a needed therapy.
VR is an incredible therapy for patients who endure chronic pain. Children’s hospitals have begun using VR programs as a way to reduce pain through visually interactive stimulation. These specifically designed interactive VR experiences are reducing the amount of pain that children and even adults endure.
It is becoming therapeutic for burn victims and cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. By distracting the senses and redirecting visual stimulation patients are reporting less pain and have been able to lower their pain medications during procedures.
Positioning and distraction
For patients that have to undergo procedures that require them to hold still for long periods of time VR can provide an effective distraction.
Specialized software can direct you to look a certain way or move in a specific pattern in order to proceed through the simulation. This is especially helpful with younger patients that are less understanding of the need to remain motionless.
It can also be used by patients that only have the mobility of their head, some programs respond to head tilts and specific facial movements. This provides an opportunity for distraction when patients are unable to be active for long periods of time.
PTSD and anxiety disorders
VR is now being used to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety-inducing conditions. It helps remove the patient from the situation and teaches them to apply exercises that reduce stress and create positive feedback.
This has been especially useful with veterans that suffer from PTSD after spending time in combat. It is also useful for people who suffer from phobias. Simulations can be introduced that help people conquer fears of things like heights, large crowds, small spaces, and many other anxiety-inducing situations.
A better future through VR innovation
Overall, this is just the beginning. As VR develops further and the elements of interaction improve, our opportunity for use in the medical world will only increase. Healthcare related innovations, like virtual reality, are paving the way for a better future.