Top 10 XR Use Cases in Healthcare
There are quite a few use cases for extended reality technologies in healthcare. Here’s a list of what we think are top use cases:
1. Patient education
Thanks to the Internet, today’s patients are more informed than ever. They want to learn about their health and, if/when possible, even participate in some key decisions that could be made on their behalf. And that’s where extended reality technologies could kick in, offering immersive lessons that could be easier to grasp than written text. After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words — an extended reality experience could easily be worth a million.
2. Surgical training
Despite the massive advancements in science and medical technology, the way surgeons are trained has remained largely unchanged for the past 150 years. Typically, this consists of classroom-based theory, theatre-style viewing of cadaver-based teaching, observation in the operating room, hands-on cadaver practice, closely monitored live patient involvement and increasingly YouTube. An XR-based solution augments the apprenticeship training model by allowing multiple surgeons to train together in one VR space independent of their physical location. Collaborative training affords improved learning and assessment opportunities for surgeons and the surgical team, while giving medical device companies a more scalable way to offer workshops and training sessions.
3. Mental health
Mental disorders are said to be among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide, and extended reality technologies — namely VR — can help as an additional treatment. Several studies have already shown that VR can ease certain phobias, treat PTSD, help people with psychotic disorders experience less paranoia and anxiety in public settings, and reduce social anxiety. In addition, VR-enabled experiences bring mindfulness exercises to a whole new level.
4. Pain management
It is only natural that with its “takeover” of the user’s field of view, virtual reality could serve as a useful, drug-free distraction from chronic pain. That fact has prompted many studies into the effectiveness of technology in treating pain or at least making it manageable. The technology works both with adult patients and with children, who could be provided with an immersive way to “handle” often unpleasant tests and procedures.
5. Stroke recovery
After a stroke, patients are suggested to train their upper and lower limbs to help the brain “re-program” itself and form new neural connections. These new connections stimulate the recovery of motor skills in patients following stroke. So VR may be useful to augment rehabilitation of the upper and lower limbs in patients suffering from stroke and other neurological injuries. In some studies, therapists have manipulated the image onscreen to make the patient’s limb appear to be moving faster and more accurately than it was in real life. Doing this increased the patient’s confidence and made them more likely to use their affected limb spontaneously, which in turn helped them recover more completely.
XR technologies bring telehealth to a whole new level, with one company — XRHealth — now boasting more than 500 certified healthcare professionals in its network. The company’s offering covers a range of treatments — including physical therapy, mental health, menopause, cognitive therapy, respiratory recovery and pain management. And XRHealth is not the only game in town.
Instead of running around with an activity tracker or smartwatch on your wrist, virtual reality can help users accomplish the same thing (calorie-wise) without leaving their living room. A few companies in this space offer connected solutions that provide for a more engaging experience to the users. Zwift is one of them, which stationary bike massive multiplayer online (MMO) game allows users to compete with other riders from all around the world. Also, there are Blue Goji and BitGym, both of which will work with treadmills, elliptical machines, and stationary bikes.
8. Concussion assessment
Virtual reality combined with eye-tracking has the potential for lifesaving applications in concussion assessment. That’s what the company called SyncThink is all about, providing medical professionals with objective metrics to evaluate brain function. Based on 15 years of research and holding over 10 patents, the company’s first product, EYE-SYNC, is a 60-second, objective assessment that uses eye-tracking to assess ocular-motor impairments and recently added ocular-vestibular dysfunction — the two most common and serious impairments in concussion. FDA-cleared for detecting eye-tracking impairment, EYE-SYNC is used by the U.S. army as well as leading university athletic departments and medical clinics, such as Stanford University to Massachusetts General Hospital.
9. Visual aid
Though people can learn to navigate cautiously through sound and touch, many places assume that their visitors can quickly see layouts and features, and offer no substitute to printed signs and other purely visual navigational necessities. Modern smart glasses could help with built-in cameras and always-on capabilities working together to pull information from the Internet to tell users about their surroundings. In the process, the software recognizes objects and people around the user letting him/her know what’s going on.
10. Treating people with neurological disorders
Playing games in VR could be a tool in treating people with neurological disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. The technology, according to a study from the University of Waterloo, could help individuals with these neurological conditions shift their perceptions of time, which their conditions lead them to perceive differently. The researchers discovered that the VR manipulation was associated with significant reductions in the participants’ estimates of time, by around 15 percent.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We go into much more detail in the full report “XR in Healthcare“.