For years, Virtual Reality (also known as VR) remained the technology ‘hacking our senses’ for providing unparalleled fun and entertainment experiences. But now, this technology is gaining immense significance in various other industries, including healthcare.
From educating to enhancing the existing clinical processes and applications, VR is unfolding newer ways of providing an exemplary experience to both patients and medical professionals.
Before we explore the different ways VR technology is revolutionizing the healthcare domain, here’s an overview of what Virtual Reality is and how it works.
The term ‘Virtual Reality’ refers to a 3D artificial environment generated by a computer which seems like reality and can be experienced or explored by an individual. The user can interact with the things around him or can perform a series of actions for determining what’s happening around.
Working of VR Technology
Basically, a Virtual Reality headset, a mobile phone or another machine is employed to offer multiple-projected environments in conjunction with the physical environment, realistic images and sounds for providing a VR experience.
When the user wears the headset (or uses the lenses), a series of images are displayed in front of the user at a speed of 60 frame rate per second to make the human mind believe that it’s reality.
Besides, various mechanisms are considered to enable user interaction in this whole process, such as:
Head tracking systems used in VR headsets assign X, Y and Z axis to all the directions and movements. In addition, it employs tools like gyroscope, accelerometer and circle of LEDs to easily track the user’s head movements and simulate the environment in the same direction at once.
Various headsets encompass an infrared controller to follow the direction of eye movements and immediately provide a realistic view in the same direction.
Optical cameras and sensors are also integrated into some headsets to easily track the user’s movements and raise the level of VR experience.
Applications of Virtual Reality in Healthcare
Virtual Reality is bringing a positive impact in the healthcare industry; helping them deliver better services and experience. Some of the areas where VR technology is effectively applied are:
Medical Education and Training
The traditional methods of medical education and training were expensive, time-consuming and complicated. However, the major breakthrough of Virtual Reality in the healthcare field has made it easier and effective.
With VR-based mobile applications, medical students and professionals can learn the concepts via 360-degree videos and 3D interactive content. They can practice complex procedures without putting their lives at risk, can get valuable feedback during the process and enhance their skills.
For example, ImmersiveTouch is a VR-based platform that stores the MRI/CT scans of the patient’s body on the cloud and transforms them into 3D interactive images. Then, the surgeon can practice or teach complex surgeries to others, with the platform cloning the surgical touch and patient’s response.
VR is also paving the way to a better diagnosis of diseases and ailments. By translating MRI/CT scans into interactive images, the technology is helping doctors to react with digital surgery tools and not the invasive techniques.
Apart from this, the technology is helping doctors with continual patient medical measurements like blood pressure, electrocardiograms, oximeter readings, etc. The doctors, as well as patients, can feed this data into a machine learning-based software and can access it anytime, which eventually reduces the risk of chronic illness and cost. In other words, this form of virtual simulation also helps with increasing the precision and in reducing the complications and trauma.
Using Virtual Reality technology, the medical and healthcare service providers can explain everything to the patients via 3D interactive models. This reduces the time and efforts invested in the consultation process and accelerates the process of taking a decision.
Pain management and Therapy
The technology is empowering patients to perform their exercise routine by distracting them from their pain perception. It is also helping the doctors to track the body movements in real-time and act wisely. Thus, VR is making it possible to treat the patients quickly and effectively without the involvement of any invasive procedure.
For example, SnowWorld is a VR-based game that distracts people from the painful procedure by immersing them into a snowy world. The patient can play with snowballs, make a snowman, see mammoths and penguins, and so on. During this period, the doctors can perform the treatment without dealing with any complication that might arise due to a patient getting panic.
The application of VR in surgery is also changing the way surgeons prepare for and perform surgical operations. One of the key aspects is Robotic surgery.
In Robotic surgery, the operation is performed by a robotic device controlled by the surgeon. The medical practitioner gets force feedbacks in real-time with which they can perform the operation efficiently. This method of surgical operation is primarily employed in cases involving higher time and risk (surgery complications).
With the help of Virtual Reality, the patients suffering from mental illness and trauma are exposed to a safe virtual world. The environment is recreated gradually to help them get rid of frustration, anxiety and other negative feelings, and ultimately, so they can experience happiness and satisfaction. The patient’s body is made relaxed and calm by those activities, which lower down the chances of panic attacks.
For example, GestureTek developed VR-based IREX that lets the patients exercise beyond their physical and cognitive capabilities via exciting games and activities.
Virtual Reality headsets and mobile applications are helping the patients beat their phobias. The technology is exposing them to an environment related to their fear or phobia and the level of exposure is adjusted in real-time. By doing this, the patients are provided time to get rid of the phobia: slowly and gradually. In addition to this, patients are leveraged with the facility to attend sessions anytime and anywhere so they can win the battle against their phobia.
For example, Psious - a virtual reality platform - is enabling the medical professionals to tackle the patients with anxiety disorders, phobias and fears. The platform shows a set of animated and live environments in addition to videos related to Mindfulness and relaxation technique so as to calm down the patient’s body and empower doctors to treat the patient in a better way.
Thanks to the involvement of VR in healthcare, a surgeon can provide immediate consultation to a patient sitting in the other corner of the world without stepping out of his office. All he has to do is to wear the VR headset.
The adoption of Virtual Reality in the healthcare industry is growing day by day, and this trend is going to become even better with time. The global market of AR and VR in healthcare is expected to reach USD 4,997.9 million by the year 2023, with a CAGR of 36.6%. This directly signifies that this is the right time for the healthcare service providers to contact the best VR app development companies in order to make their future better.
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