Virtual reality (VR) technologies are making waves in the medical field, and they’re not just being used to create more immersive video games. The prospect of using VR in healthcare is more than just futuristic—it’s here now, and it could make our lives easier in more ways than we can imagine.
While some parts of the world are still skeptical about whether or not VR is ready to be integrated into the healthcare industry, others are already on board and have begun exploring how VR will change the future of healthcare forever. This piece will explore 9 ways virtual reality is changing the future of healthcare.
1) Medical Training for Students
One big way virtual reality is changing healthcare is in its use as a training tool for students. VR training systems can help prepare future doctors, nurses, and EMTs for difficult real-world scenarios.
For example, many medical schools are now using virtual reality to train their students on endoscopic surgical procedures; these procedures can be incredibly intricate and difficult to perform without proper training.
By using special headsets that simulate complex medical tools like scopes or lasers, students can learn how to make quick decisions when they’re not able to rehearse with physical models or human patients.
2) Psychological Treatments
Virtual reality is shaping up to be an effective tool for treating mental illnesses and psychiatric disorders. There are a variety of immersive VR therapies on offer, including treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, addictions, and many others.
The most common modality used in mental health applications is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). For example, one study found that patients with severe social anxiety experienced fewer symptoms after undergoing CBT delivered in virtual reality versus those who received traditional group therapy treatment.
3) Preventative Care
In healthcare, virtual reality is not only changing how we treat disease and illness, but also how we prevent it. From surgery training to patient education to medical research, VR is playing a vital role in improving patient care.
Although VR isn’t a replacement for real-life training or regular checkups, it’s offering another tool in our ever-expanding belt as we try to keep our patients healthy. According to current projections, revenue from global health IT solutions will reach $185 billion by 2023 – which only makes sense considering how much more efficient our lives would be if we didn’t have to go into an office or hospital for every little thing.
4) Improve Outcomes
Virtual reality technology can be used to treat a wide range of physical and mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), dementia, or even social phobias.
It’s being tested for its ability to elicit responses in users that may improve their well-being. And VR is quickly gaining popularity among medical students: A 2017 survey found that 94 percent of students had used VR to help with anatomy training and 89 percent said they would use it again in the future.
5) Keep Patients Engaged in Their Treatment
As technology becomes a larger part of healthcare, new methods to help patients learn about and engage with their treatment are being developed. Virtual reality is especially beneficial in that it’s a visual experience—and visuals, like pictures or videos, are proven to be more effective at getting information across than words alone. What does VR have to offer patients? We’re glad you asked
6) Coaching Healthier Habits
Virtual reality can also be used to introduce healthier habits into our day-to-day lives. Many people develop unhealthy habits, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and overindulging in junk food.
Rather than focusing on trying to change that behavior after it has already become entrenched, virtual reality can be used to train people in healthier habits before their brains have had a chance to associate those unhealthy behaviors with rewards.
If you have trouble sticking with a fitness plan or cut out healthy foods from your diet because they’re not tasty enough, virtual reality can help you establish new associations between healthy behaviors and goals and give you better odds of actually seeing them through.
7) Treat Pain Better
Virtual reality is a game-changer for pain management, particularly in patients with chronic or acute pain. Virtual reality technology has been shown to help reduce pain more than traditional treatment methods by immersing users in an alternate environment that distracts them from their current physical condition.
And virtual reality therapy can be an effective intervention for many different types of injuries—or even if you’re just experiencing some daily aches and pains. The following are 9 ways virtual reality is changing the future of healthcare
8) Innovate New Procedures, Treatments, and Techniques
Virtual reality is becoming an essential tool in medicine, from conducting procedures remotely to providing therapists with new tools for treating addiction and anxiety. One study found that virtual reality therapy can be just as effective as the human-to-human talk therapy for treating depression and other mental illnesses, reducing symptoms in patients by up to 60%.
If a therapist in a different location—or even a computer program—can do that, it’s easy to see how virtual reality will change everything from treatment methods to how we approach healthcare overall. Virtual reality has been used in healthcare since at least 1968 when Morton Heilig created The Sensorama Simulator, an arcade cabinet machine that provided realistic feedback using different sensory stimuli including sight, sound, smell, and touch.
9) Improve Communication Between Doctors and Patients
When patients feel like they have no voice in their healthcare, they’re less likely to follow their treatment plans and suffer more often from relapses. Virtual reality is helping change that by giving people a new way to communicate with their doctors.
For example, patients can view 3D scans and virtual models of tumors before coming in for treatment so they know what to expect during surgery. This empowers them to advocate for themselves and helps them feel comfortable asking questions when they come to see their physician.
VR also allows nurses and doctors working with real-time scans to streamline virtual operations—which means earlier diagnoses, more-accurate procedures, and better care overall.
Though virtual reality in healthcare is still in its infancy, there’s plenty of room for growth. As long as physicians and custom mobile app developers maintain a focus on collaboration and patient-centeredness, virtual reality will become a key player in advancing medicine. And that’s something we can all look forward to. What do you think about virtual reality’s future? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
Author Bio: Amy Parker is a technology consultant at AppsDevPro, a leading Mobile & Web development company that offers offshore mobile, web, frontend, full-stack developers. I have 18+ years of experience in writing and always looking for new ways to improve skills and learn from others.