In the previous part of the blog, we saw 9 applications of Virtual Reality Technology. In this blog, we would discuss some more applications of Virtual Reality in Healthcare. As it is evident, healthcare is one of the biggest adopters of Virtual Reality and encompasses surgery simulation, phobia treatment, robotic surgery and skills training.
Below are some other fields in the healthcare where you can observe the potential use of Virtual Reality Technology:
1. Exposure Therapy –
This treatment is for the patients suffering from any kind of Phobias and Anxieties. As the name suggests, in this therapy the patients are treated by exposing them to a virtual world comprising of the environment they have fear of like flying and claustrophobia. Some of the benefits that VR experience gives are that the patients can control the virtual environment where they face their fears and practice coping strategies in a setup that’s private, safe, and easily stopped or repeated, depending on the circumstances.
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2. Treatment for PSTD –
PSTD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The introduction of VR has taken Medical Practitioners one step ahead in treating the soldiers in a better way. Clinics and hospitals are using virtual reality simulations of warfare akin to Iraq and Afghanistan to help military veterans in reliving the traumatic events they have experienced in their past and eventually taking that further to help them come out of the traumas and stress. These treatments comprises of safe and controlled environments that help them learn how to deal with instances that may trigger them to behave in a way that could be destructive for others and themselves.
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3. Pain Management –
I feel this is the most beneficial technique for doctors treating patients suffering from burn injuries. The basic idea of it is to provide for distraction therapy to help them get a handle on that pain. As it has been quoted by TechRepublic “A VR video game from the University of Washington called SnowWorld, which involves throwing snow balls at penguins and listening to Pal Simon, could alleviate pain during tasks that can be excruciating, like wound care or physical therapy, by overwhelming the senses and pain pathways in the brain.”
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4. Simulation and Planning –
All the surgery procedures are very complex and are planned in excruciating details. Till date there have been to option for hands-on practice in the training and education of surgeries for the doctors. Virtual Reality has added this dimension to the trainings of surgeries. Operating a real patient is in many terms very different from the practice sessions performed on the artificial or inanimate tissues. Researchers have tried to develop the VR simulators using the images from MRI and CT scan to create the 3D Models for the VR environment. Some of the examples from the healthcare field using these techniques are
- Neurosurgeons of Mayo Clinic, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center are planning to use Oculus Rift goggles and to use virtual reality technology for planning the procedure of the tumor surgeries.
- Stanford University, has a surgery simulator which also consists of haptic feedback for those doing the training.
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5. Phantom Limb Pain –
There many issues that doctors face many times while treating their patients regularly. One such medical issue is Phantom Limb pain. This pain could be very sharp and excruciating as it takes time for the human body to adapt to the changes. Mirror therapy was used in the past times, in which patient would look at the mirror image of the existing limb and feel relieved as brain syncs with the movements of the real and phantom limb.
Frontiers, a medical journal last year published a study in Neuroscience which discussed the role of virtual reality games to help alleviate phantom limb pain.
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6. Virtual Reality in Neuro-Psychology –
Virtual environments provide standardized, safe and yet flexible platforms for assessments and training in neuropsychological domain. VR is a highly flexible tool which provides us the opportunity to program a large variety of procedures of intervention on psychological distress. The patients are exposed to complex multimodal stimuli within immersive virtual worlds to assist the neuro-physicists in assessing and rehabilitating cognitive functions of civilians and military people. The MedVR group who has been very focused at developing such VR systems places a strong emphasize on using clinical and scientific methodology with that integrating the cognitive, motor and mental functions across all the types of projects.
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7. Social Cognition Training for Young Adults with Autism –
We all are aware of the medical condition in some people called as Autism and the difficulty people faces in overcoming this condition. Virtual Reality has given a new direction to the treatment of autism. Professors at the University of Texas, Dallas have create some training programs to help kids overcome autism by working on their social skills. This system monitors the brain waves and brain images. It provides the kids with situations like interviews or blind dates using avatars. They help them in reading social cues, guiding them about the social behaviors and much more about how to be in the social group. After finishing the program a lot of improvement was observed in the people, brain images of the social regions were a proof to them.
8. Opportunities for the Disabled –
This concept is not very new for us. New York Times had done a story in 1994 which talked about multiple uses of VR for disabled children like a 5 year old boy with a cerebral palsy took his wheelchair through a grassy field with the help of VR systems. Another use said that 50 children suffering from cancer were given a chance to spend some time swimming by developing an animated fish tank virtual environment.
The most recent example is of Fove, who undertook a crowding campaign to create an app called Eye Play the Piano, which will help disabled children to play paino using the headset’s eye tracking technology.
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9. Opportunities for the Homebound –
This development is for those people who don’t have the ability to get out in the real world due to their age or some disability. It provides them with an option to go around the world virtually and add some change in their routine life which is confined to their residence, room or bed.
Reading all the applications, it is indeed evident that Virtual Reality has given great heights to the Healthcare Industry. Whenever we talk of Virtual Reality we connect it with surgery only, but the applications of Virtual Reality has much wider acceptance in healthcare in all types of treatments and therapies. Virtual Reality has lessened the risks in the medical surgeries and also saves the time.