Virtual Reality (VR) is Revolutionizing the Healthcare Industry in many Unexpected Ways
Unexpected, because whenever VR is mentioned, entertainment and games are what comes to mind for most people. However, VR has positively changed the lives of many people suffering from several medical conditions, while also significantly improving the effectiveness of clinicians and physicians’ work – thereby helping them serve their patients better.
According to a survey by Global Industry Analysts, the global market for VR in the healthcare industry could reach up to $3.8 billion by 2020. They further added that the driving forces behind that growth include advances in healthcare IT, the growing demand for rehabilitation and simulation training and increased preference for minimally invasive and noninvasive medical procedures
This article looks at some of the ways virtual reality is currently disrupting the healthcare industry.
VR is Helping People Overcome Phobias and Anxiety Disorders
Living with a phobia or anxiety can considerably limit the quality of one’s life. Therapists often treat patients with what is called Graded-Exposure Therapy. This treatment works by exposing patients slowly to their fears, typically in the order of tolerance.
In recent years, virtual reality has proven one of the most established forms of treating patients with this same technique. One of the benefits of using VR for Graded-Exposure Therapy is the ability to tailor it to each patient’s individual needs.
Another benefit is the flexibility of the treatment because it can be done either at home or in the clinician’s office. VR is also being used to treat people suffering from psychotic disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
VR is Helping People Overcome Chronic Pains
A lot of people’s definition of managing pain is usually with the help of painkillers to make every day less of a struggle. However, thanks to new evidence, medical VR (or virtual reality therapy) is being used to help people stop their brain from processing pain.
VR is also being used to reduce pain in hospitalised patients. Reduced pain translates to faster recovery processes, thus shortening the length of the patient’s stay in the hospital, which in turn lowers the costs of care.
Studies have revealed that the parts of the brain linked to pain (i.e. the somatosensory cortex and the insula) are much less active when a patient is immersed in virtual reality, thus helping them cope better with the pain and eventually, overcoming it.
VR is Helping Medical Students Learn Better and Faster
Training and educating medical students can be very time-consuming and exhaustive, both for the students and for the teachers.
Luckily, VR is transforming the learning (and teaching) experience by creating a completely new immersive world where students can learn anatomy, pharmacology, and even practise complex operations.
According to Narendra Kini, CEO of Miami Children’s Health System, in an interview with Fortune, the retention rate for virtual training is upwards of 80% after one year compared to traditional training with less than 20% retention after each week. These statistics go to show that VR is a powerful and effective teaching tool.
VR is Helping People Speedup Recovery Through Physical Therapy
Accidents are bound to happen. When they do, injuries that cause extensive physical damage and restrict bodily movement are not far behind. When this is the case, physical therapy is often recommended to get the patient back on track to quick recovery.
Virtual reality is helping people speed up their recovery by immersing them in interactive exercise sessions where participation is fun and engaging. The therapist can track movements and monitor improvements easily. Also, because it is more fun to do exercises in virtual reality than in a physical gym, people are much more motivated to exercise.
VR Is Helping Patients Speedup Cognitive Rehabilitation After A Stroke
Another area where virtual reality is making a great impact on people’s lives is for those who have suffered brain injury because of trauma, stroke or accidents. For these patients, the earlier they start rehabilitation, the better chances they have for successfully regaining their cognitive functions.
Virtual reality apps such as Mindmaze allow patients to practice moving and lifting their fingers and arms in VR. Although patients are not moving their limbs, their engagement, motivation, and attention are much more improved. This, in turn, speeds up the recovery of their nervous systems and helps them regain a higher level of cognitive function.
Virtual reality is helping people take control of their lives, overcome pain and discomfort and even speed up their recovery. Furthermore, VR is revolutionising the way medical students are learning complicated procedures, which in turn make them better surgeons, physicians and nurses.
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Damilare Macaulay is a freelance content marketing strategist and copywriter who regularly produces top quality articles and blog posts for a range of websites.