Augmented and Virtual Reality (VR) is an up and coming industry estimated to reach $80 million dollars by 2025 according to Goldman Sachs. Healthcare is getting into the game with innovative uses for VR that aid both medical staff and patients. Statista has reported that the VR health care market was valued at 525 million dollars in 2012 and has climbed to 976 million dollars in 2017. VR in health care has many applications that can provide safer outcomes and less stress for patients as well as better preparation for physicians.
Oculus partnered with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) to build a VR simulation that allows medical students and staff to experience rare yet high-risk pediatric trauma situations with life threatening consequences if response is not fast and efficient. By virtually practicing in these conditions, students and staff can be better prepared in a real-life situation, saving time, money and potentially, lives.
By using imaging such as MRI’s, CT scans and ultrasounds, physicians can create a 3D virtual view of the area they will be operating on beforehand so they can plan and prepare for the actual day in the operating room, which can eliminate surprises. More than one doctor can view the patients’ virtual anatomical model simultaneously to collaborate on procedure, and doctors can virtually recreate the surgery again and again until they get it just right. This can be a huge advantage for complicated surgeries.
MindMaze, a Swiss start-up founded in 2011, has developed technologies that help patients recover from brain injuries. Using virtual reality, brain imaging and gaming technologies, they help stroke victims retrain their brain to regain motor and cognitive skills. MindMaze is also currently working on therapy solutions for spinal cord injury and amputee patients.
Therapy for PTSD patients using VR involves desensitizing patients to their painful experiences by reliving the event in a safe, controlled environment. It has had promising outcomes, allowing patients to overcome their fears and lead normal lives.
Psychologist Hunter Hoffman at the Human Interface Technology Lab (HITLab) at the University of Washington, developed SnowWorld to help burn patients while undergoing excruciating wound-care sessions. Patients are distracted from the pain while entering a virtual world that allows them to soar through a canyon while throwing snowballs at penguins and snowmen. Patients playing the game during wound-care sessions reported up to 50-percent less pain than those attempting other means to distract patients from pain such as music or Nintendo.