5 ways VR is changing healthcare

Virtual Reality headsets began their journey in 1939 with the ViewMaster, long before the term VR came into being. However, VR’s wobbly journey took it 72 years before it could establish its unique utility in the digital market space. With the introduction of the Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, Steam’s HTC Vive, Microsoft HoloLens, Samsung Gear VR and the soon to be introduced Magic Leap, VR is showing promising potential and acceptance.

Surprisingly, these gaming focused Head-Mounted Devices (HMDs) have proven themselves to be effective at delivering healthcare education/practice and patient care interventions. VR HMD’s provide means for users to experience simulated environments that may or may not resemble actual reality but provide complete immersion. Furthermore, via haptic feedback, the user gets to experience more control over the immersive virtual worlds. VR simulation’s ability to offer complete immersion, transports the user into a virtual world where they can learn new skills and/or behaviours. Immersive VR simulations are displaying the potential to enhance and even change user skills/behaviours. Following are 5 interesting applications of immersive VR for healthcare related behaviour change or skills enhancement-

1. Stroke rehabilitation: Cho, Lee and Song (2012) investigate the effects of VR balance training (VRBT) with a balance board game system on the balance of chronic stroke patients.

2. Laparoscopy training: Crochet, Aggarwal, Dubb, Ziprin,  Rajaretnam, Grantcharov, Ericsson, and Darzi (2011) evaluate whether using simulated laparoscopic cholecystectomy (LC) enhances the quality of surgical skills.

3. Dissection training: Fang, Wang and Liu, C. (2014) evaluate a 3D haptic virtual reality temporal bone simulator for human anatomy dissection training.

4. Cataract surgery: Lam, Sundaraj and Sulaiman (2013) found that the latest capabilities of computed tomography technology in generating 3-D patient model for graphical representation is very informative for surgeons to plan and make decisions before the operation.

5. Distraction during chemotherapy: Schneider and Hood (2007)  explore the influence of age, gender, state anxiety, fatigue and cancer diagnosis in predicting the difference between actual time elapsed during receipt of intravenous chemotherapy while immersed in a VR environment versus patient’s retrospective estimates of time elapsed during this treatment.



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