Medical and Healthcare institutes are always in search for new technologies that can enhance the medical procedures and increase the chances of operation success.
Virtual reality is one such technology that with its absolute immersion and high-end interactivity acts as a natural fit for medicine and healthcare business.
While its application is related mainly to medical learning and virtual surgical training, it also acts as a stepping stone for developers to create life-saving solutions. These solutions will support a medical professional during an operation/surgery and help a person.
Medical Learning and Training:
Virtual Reality transfers a person into the center of a virtual environment where a person can interact with various digital objects around him. This makes it a perfect tool for training simulations where a doctor or a medical professional can sharpen their surgical and clinical skills.
Young medical students often don’t get to attend an operation nowadays. Live streaming will bring the students close to actual operation. A virtual camera will record the whole operation and students through VR goggles can witness it in a 360° perspective.
In 2016, a doctor named Shafi Ahmed live-streamed a 360° operation video which gave access to doctors and medical students around the world to participate in the operation.
Such innovative VR usage will give youngsters an exposure of an actual operation theater and help prepare a batch of future generation doctors and medical professionals.
Also, to increase their proficiency in surgery, doctors can go through a simulation in virtual reality. In the simulation, the surgeons will be able to interact with different tools. Using these tools they can test their abilities by practicing on artificial patients in the simulation.
Although communication across various geographical locations has been available for many years in the form of video conferencing and remote calling, there has been no medium to interact with places that are pretty far.
Through virtual reality, a person can visit an operation theater in a different location from his own place. This will help surgical specialists to treat patients all over the world and assist patients in case of emergencies.
Dr. Mehran Anvari was the first doctor who performed an operation using a robot from a remote location. Even though he used a standard computer screen to perform the operation, distant surgery can be elevated further through virtual reality.
With the use of a head-mounted the display and haptic gloves, a surgeon can virtually immerse in an operating room in a distant location and use their skills to save lives. The 360° vision will also give them a sense of depth which will help them better in conducting surgery.
Surgical planning in Virtual Reality:
Also, through VR a person can access and view complex areas of a human body in a 3D environment. This ability to view inside a human body will assist doctors to reconstruct a virtual anatomy/pathology of a person. This anatomy will help surgeons to devise a plan for an operation to reach the infected area.
The virtual reconstruction will also help patients to go through the surgical plan and that he/she will go through. This treatment understanding will consequently offer high patient satisfaction and allow him/her to prepare for the operation.
Physical and Mental Therapy:
Virtual Reality creates powerful simulations of different scenarios. Through the help of virtual videos and simulations, medical professionals and experts can help their patients with better physical and psychological therapy.
- Physical Therapy and Pain Management:
Virtual Reality assists a person in physical treatment. Amputees often suffer from phantom limb pain (PLP). PLP is an ongoing painful sensation that comes from the part of a limb that has been amputated.
Patients of PLP feel clenching of muscles, fingers, and toes that are cut-off that can often lead to un-bearing pain. However, VR can assist amputees to reduce the pain through physical therapy in a virtual environment.
A study showed that virtual simulation acted as a distraction for them and reduced pain level subsequently. Virtual Reality also increases the recovery time and builds the confidence of a patient.
Just like physical limb pain, Virtual Reality is also assisting patients suffering from chronic pain to reduce the pain by a substantial amount. According to research, VR can help patients to reduce the pain by 25 percent.
- Brain Injury and Low Vision:
After being immersed in a virtual environment, the mind of the patient gets distracted which in turn stops the brain from processing pain. This shortens a patient’s stay in hospital and thus lowers the cost of care.
It also helps in the recovery of a patient affected by trauma or another brain injury. The rehabilitation through VR will assist him/her to regain control over body parts functions. Their engagement with their body increases from the help of audio-visual feedback in VR.
Also, through virtual reality people with low vision can see properly. Many people suffer from low vision due to age-related issues or due to an injury.
However, virtual reality experiences will help a low vision patient to recover his eyesight. By magnifying the desired object a low vision person can interact with it without losing the awareness of its surroundings.
- Psychological Therapy and Mental Health:
The unique ability of virtual reality to teleport a person to different virtual scenarios can be used to prepare simulations through which patients suffering from psychological difficulties can overcome them.
Virtual reality is advancing techniques of autism therapy. Autism is a development disorder that prevents a person from social interaction and communication. People suffering from autism are restricted by repetitive patterns of their thoughts and behavior.
Virtual Reality will help people suffering from autism to initiate social interaction. They will be able to communicate with different virtual characters in a scene and improve their social skills.
Virtual Reality will also calm the patients at hospitals. Lying on a hospital bed for a long duration can be a struggle for patients. Virtual Reality can be used to create scenarios that will help hospitalized patients to relax.
A lot of virtual reality applications in the field of medical and healthcare business are emerging. Even though these usages are in their early stage, with development in VR better applications will emerge that will revolutionize the surgical practices and various medical procedures.