Top 5 Use Cases for Virtual Reality in Healthcare
Virtual reality (VR) is one of the key technologies shaping up the future of healthcare. The utilization of VR in the industry is already showing signs that it can diminish costs, increase access, and improve outcomes for individuals around the globe.
There are quite a few use cases for VR technologies in healthcare, and here's a list of what we think are the top 5 use cases:
1. Patient engagement & education
Today's patients are more informed than ever with the Internet providing them with answers to many health-related questions they may have. There are answers and, unfortunately, "answers" but that's another topic.
With VR, companies can provide patients with immersive lessons that are easier to grasp than written text. If a picture is worth a thousand words — a VR experience could easily be worth a million.
In that sense, we've seen a VR app that explains the impact of genes on various aspects of life, an app that helps people understand IBS, one that provides first aid training, as well as an app that takes users inside coronavirus-damaged lungs.
2. Surgical training
Arguably more important for VR is its use in the training of future surgeons. You see, 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.
A VR-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.
The Johnson & Johnson Institute (JJI) is among the companies in this area, having launched a global VR training program for surgeons and nurses for orthopedic surgery in 2018.
There is also GIBLIB, which is a streaming platform offering the largest library of on-demand medical lectures and surgical videos in 4K and 360-degree virtual reality.
And let's not forget FundamentalVR, which SaaS platform Fundamental Surgery combines VR with cutting-edge haptics to create a low-cost and scalable flight simulator experience for trainee and qualified surgeons.
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.
The major player in this field is OxfordVR, which is developing VR-based clinically validated, cost-effective, user-centered mental health treatments that are deemed faster and more effective than traditional treatments — while significantly lowering the cost to health providers.
Its first product, an automated VR treatment for height phobia, was tested in a large randomized controlled trial, with the results gaining global acclaim in the Lancet Psychiatry. The treatment is now being used in select NHS clinics. While the company's different product, VR-enabled Social Engagement, is made to help individuals overcome anxious social avoidance.
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.
AppliedVR is one of the leading companies in this field, offering a VR content platform specifically designed for the clinical environment to enhance the patient experience and comfort, increase internal efficiency for providers, and maximize healthcare value for all. The company's solutions are made for hospitals, infusion centers, senior care facilities, surgery centers, and exam rooms.
XR technologies bring telehealth to a whole new level, providing levels of immersion that are otherwise impossible with smartphone-, tablet- or computer-based virtual visits.
XRHealth is the leader in this field, having opened the first VR telehealth clinic in February 2020. Right from the bet, the telehealth services provided by the company were covered by Medicare and most major insurance providers.
XRHealth is also working with other healthcare providers; for instance, in November 2019 - it partnered with Israel's Sheba Medical Center to create what they say is the first fully VR-based hospital, utilizing XRHealth’s technology throughout each department. The integration of VR is part of the medical center’s innovation efforts and commitment to digital health.
There are, of course, other solutions on the market with different use cases. We go into much more detail in the full report "XR in Healthcare" which also explores the use of Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) in healthcare. Check it out and do let us know if you have any ideas, comments, questions and so on.