Virtual reality (VR) is a technology that allows the user to explore a computer-generated environment in three dimensions, as if they are actually present in this virtual environment. Participating in these immersive simulations requires a VR headset as well as some sort of hand controllers, which are either held in the hands or embedded in gloves. VR is often thought of as a technologically advanced type of video game, but it can also be more than that. In the medical field, VR is increasingly being used to train doctors and nurses, teach patients about needed medical interventions, and even reduce pain without drugs.
Medical education has progressed from simple memorization of information to working with students to develop strategies for devising and implementing an effective treatment plan for each patient. Skills that medical professionals need include being good communicators and knowing how to identify and solve problems. Using virtual reality to practice assessing and triaging patients lets students develop, practice, and fine-tune these skills without interfering with care of real-world patients. It also allows them to practice medical procedures and learn anatomy in a unique way.
One vital use of virtual reality is planning out intricate procedures and letting all involved doctors and nurses practice their part in the surgery. This can have a major impact on the chances of a successful outcome of the procedure. It decreases the chance of accidental injury to the patient during the surgery. VR also improves the outcomes of surgeries performed with robotic arms or other devices. It also helps the patients, who can use VR to better understand the procedure beforehand. For operations where the patient must stay awake (as in some neurological procedures), VR can also distract the patient to help them cope with undergoing the surgery while conscious.
Pain management and the use of opioids is a topic of great concern in the medical field. The success of virtual reality in treating patients with chronic or severe pain, such as those recovering from skin grafts, offers hope of effective treatment without risk of addiction. It’s also being studied for use in childbirth and to help pediatric patients deal with things like daily injections or other treatments.
Virtual reality opens up many opportunities in the field of physical therapy. Some studies report that using VR shortens recovery times and improves patient outcomes. It also allows patients to focus on things other than the pain during sessions. The VR setting is also more enjoyable, which can increase patient compliance. Stroke victims in particular have seen great gains using augmented reality and VR-assisted therapy.
Addiction is hard for many patients to overcome. Virtual reality treatment can help them practice identifying and resisting triggers that make them want to relapse and also help them learn to avoid the addictive substance or behavior in their homes and social groups.
The more patients understand their condition and treatment plan, the better outcome they have. However, patients may also get overwhelmed and either not understand or forget the information health-care providers share with them. Providing education through (virtual) reality helps them understand how to comply with a doctor’s suggestions. It also can help them better understand upcoming treatments and procedures.
One way to make patients increase their fitness levels is to make it fun. Virtual reality can use immersive games to get people up and moving without even noticing that they’re exercising. VR fitness can also provide immediate feedback and help players move more efficiently and effectively, which can reduce the chance of injury. VR workouts can also be done from anywhere, meaning patients don’t have to travel to the gym or to a personal trainer.
Keeping a modern medical office or hospital in business today requires an effective marketing strategy. Virtual reality can allow physicians to showcase their skills and patients to share their stories in new ways that can have a big impact on bringing new patients to the practice. As the use of virtual reality grows, this chance to show what benefits and skills doctors possess will become more common.