Top 5 Virtual Reality applications transforming healthcare

Top 5 Virtual Reality applications transforming healthcare

Healthcare has transformed dramatically from what we once knew. With the combination of healthcare and digital solutions, healthcare technology is thriving, showing an increase in efficiency, accessibility and an overall improved experience.

What is virtual reality (VR)?

Before diving into how VR’s immersive capabilities improve healthcare services and management, we must know what VR is. VR is a simulated experience that involves positional tracking and 3D displays close to the user’s face to give an immersive feel of a virtual world. VR is just one component of extended reality (XR). XR being a broad category of immersive 3D experiences that overarches VR and augmented reality (AR).

The value of virtual reality in healthcare

Goldman Sachs Research Report found that healthcare is among the first markets VR solutions have disrupted. In fact, by 2025, the healthcare industry will be among the top 3 sectors leading VR technology adoption. By leveraging VR capabilities, we see healthcare quality improving, healthcare costs reducing, and a seamless flow of healthcare management. 

5 VR solutions supporting healthcare management

With the capabilities VR applications produce, I invite any medical or otherwise professional to examine what processes in their field might be improved with VR. 

Here's a look at five VR solutions that have emerged in healthcare and expect to see significant growth in:

  1. Training and education 
  2. Rehabilitation and therapy 
  3. Remote patient monitoring 
  4. Surgical procedures 
  5. Telemedicine

1. VR for training and education

Most currently available VR healthcare solutions fall into the training and education category. VR creates domain-specific training that provides visualizations or scenarios that wouldn't easily be replicated outside XR. There are also more niche education applications, such as simulations designed to foster greater empathy in healthcare workers caring for dementia patients with whom they may not be adequately trained with.

VR training simulation of a dementia patient's day-to-day challenges.
Caption: VR training simulation of a dementia patient's day-to-day challenges. Credit: TTT Studios.

2. VR for rehabilitation and therapy

Recently, there has also been substantial research into VR for patient rehabilitation and pain relief. VR applications can provide immersive environments for patients, with highly controlled sensory inputs and real-time patient monitoring information.

Some exciting research has involved using VR to relieve cognitive or neurological disorders, such as phantom limb syndrome or chronic pain. In the case of phantom limbs, research has shown that simulating missing limbs in VR (with electrical impulses on the residual limb) decreases the frequency and severity of phantom limb pain attacks. For chronic pain, the FDA has already approved VR devices for mitigating chronic back pain by placing patients in serene, calming environments, some of which walk patients through breathing exercises or other meditative activities.

A VR simulation for rehabilitation of phantom limb syndrome.
Caption: A VR simulation for rehabilitation of phantom limb syndrome. Credit: © 2018 SSSA / Rossini

3. VR for remote patient monitoring (RPM)

Medical practitioners can automatically capture human vitals and biometrics of patients using VR wearables remotely. VR wearables don't necessarily take away all the responsibilities of a medical practitioner or family caregiver. Still, they support their work and improve accessibility needs if patients cannot visit the doctor in person. 

VR solutions facilitate a safe space for patients while collecting and measuring real-time healthcare data. For example, VRHealth launched a VR AI wearable headset called Luna. Luna uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to ease hot flashes in patients undergoing menopause or chemotherapy treatment. Once patients put on the wearable headset, they are greeted by AI Luna. Luna will guide patients through CBT while also monitoring and tracking user data to personalize the healthcare solution to that patient.

VR simulation of a medical practitioner conducting remote patient monitoring.
Caption: VR simulation of a medical practitioner conducting remote patient monitoring.

4. VR for surgical procedures

Interactive surgery training provides a cheaper, more accurate, and lifelike way of giving surgeons inaccessible training. Running VR surgical simulations provides a safe environment for practice before a live procedure and decreases the likelihood of real-life risk and complications. A prime example was the recent news of doctors being able to iterate the separation of con-jointed twins in real-time from different locations using VR trialing techniques before the surgery.

Medical practitioner wearing a VR headset participating in an interactive surgery training simulation.
Caption: Medical practitioner wearing a VR headset participating in an interactive surgery training simulation. Credit: FundamentalVR.

5. VR for telemedicine

Telemedicine enables physicians to see/speak to patients remotely in real-time, for instance, through video calls or by phone. With the development of new technologies, we're now seeing VR applications enhancing telemedicine components. Medical professionals communicate in real-time with patients and can simultaneously receive neurological and behavioural data. Hosting a therapeutic VR environment using wearable sensors and having a doctor remotely can introduce new opportunities for dealing with patients remotely.

More often than not, XR products are key tools for industries to reshape service offerings, products, or processes. With numerous research-backed use cases of adopting XR solutions in businesses and organizations, ensure you're working with digital consulting and software development experts to determine your digital solution needs better. For more information, contact us at hello@ttt.studio.