Virtual Reality in Healthcare

The latest breakthroughs in technology have sent the tech world abuzz with developments in technology that are influencing how people engage with each another. One such breakthrough is Virtual Reality technology.

Consumer interest in Virtual Reality technology (VR) has galvanized for both recreational and professional applications after the recent widespread dissemination of VR into consumer homes through formats such as Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift. In fact, VR spending by consumers is expected to increase exponentially in the coming years with some predicting the market reaching $21.8 Billion by 2020[i].

Beyond appealing to consumers who are interested in using VR to explore the world or battle the zombie apocalypse in the comfort of their own home, there has been a growing investment in businesses that are attempting to infuse VR applications into healthcare settings. Many believe that the integration of VR can fundamentally alter how we think about health and wellbeing as a society. Below, we highlight a few examples of VR’s forays into healthcare that are already training the next generation of clinicians and caregivers, enhancing how we deliver care, helping us manage our health and enabling a more positive family experience. 

-  Training the Next Generation: Training doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other clinicians requires a mix of traditional study as well as hands-on experience. VR has been used already to train physicians in conducting patient histories, developing the proper bedside manner, and providing an opportunity for physicians and medical students to have the “real” experience of conducting a surgery before conducting it.

Enhancing How We Deliver Care: VR training can teach individuals how to conduct procedures they might not necessarily see as frequently within their rotations, intern years, or residency and may enable physicians to build their personal exposure and experience more quickly. Other physicians have used VR to improve how they deliver care by using platforms such as Surgical Theater SuRgical Planner,[ii] which has allowed them to create 3D virtual renderings of structures prior to operating.  For especially challenging surgeries, surgeons can have an additional tool at their disposal to prepare their approach to the surgery.  

Managing Our Health: VR companies have been investigating how to help consumers manage their health in many ways. Bravemind was developed to provide gradual exposure therapy to veterans suffering from PTSD, SnowWorld was developed to distract and help patients manage pain, and other companies have been working to create VR environments to help those suffering from phantom limb syndrome[iii],[iv]. Because the wellbeing and fitness markets are lucrative, companies may well use VR to help consumers stay fit, develop proper weight training form, learn new types of sports and exercise regimens before going to the gym or out to the field, or provide a place in which people can engage in these activities solely within the confines of their own homes.

Enabling a Positive Family Experience: Have you ever felt anxious while waiting for a loved one to emerge from an operation? VR has already helped assuage anxiety experienced by patients’ families in some settings. One family used VR to help take their mother’s mind off things during their father’s double organ transplant by putting her on a rollercoaster ride. The video shows the mother reacting to the rollercoaster, distracted but briefly from her husband’s surgery, and captures some fun moments as her family erupts into peals of laughter while watching her reactions—something demonstrably different than the often tension-filled air, furrowed brows, and worried glances that can inhabit such waiting room environments.

At CAMA, we believe that advances in VR, such as the ones highlighted above, can work hand-in-hand with supporting a concept we have developed which includes 2 components, "Touch Points" and “Time Between.”

We believe Touch Points and Time Between are fundamental to all health and wellness experiences. Whether in acute care settings or daily preventative health practices, Touch Points refer to those moments individuals involved in our personal health and wellness journey (caregivers, hospital staff, wellness coaches, etc.) engage directly with us and/or our family. Time Between represents the time we spend waiting to see these individuals. 

In healthcare settings, we seek to design a relaxing experience for the Time Between a patient arrives the facility and when they are seen by a clinician. 

Sources:

[i] http://fortune.com/2016/01/21/200-million-vr-headsets-2020/

[ii] http://www.healthline.com/health-news/virtual-reality-gaining-traction-in-healthcare#1

[iii] https://techcrunch.com/2015/09/16/virtual-reality-in-healthcare-wheres-the-innovation/

[iv] http://www.vr-intelligence.com/6-vr-uses-healthcare-will-blow-your-mind