Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) may be a hit among gaming enthusiastic and film fanatics, but it’s also proving its worth amongst the medical community.
Thanks to its ability to recreate real-life situations and environments, clinical researchers and medical practitioners are developing clinical VR applications which have a significant impact across the board.
In recent years, VR has been increasingly used for education, therapy, and engagement in order to improve the quality of service and treatments offered by healthcare professionals.
VR libraries already contain the entire human anatomy which enables students, surgeons and doctors to visualise the human body, whilst offering a fully immersive environment which delivers unparalleled experiences.
A wide range of tools are available across multiple disciplines and many more can be created by innovative firms like Short Bread Animation. In a nutshell, VR and AR technologies have far-reaching capabilities that conventional practices cannot touch.
Let’s take a closer look.
VR headsets encapsulate the senses in a virtual world by closing off the real world. This enables developers to recreate precise environments and experiences for students and patients without any distractions.
Because the human mind responds to information it collects through the five senses, VR technology circumnavigates the challenges associated with current methods of treatment.
VR simulations place users in what they sense is a real-life situation, but is actual effect is a safe environment. The mind is, therefore, tricked into believing the events unfolding in a virtual setting are happening in the real world.
Subsequently, VR has been making a major impact in exposure therapy, tacking phobias, anxiety, depression and PTSD. Powerful techniques can be adopted to help cure patients of mental disorders in a safe and controlled environment in which they are at no risk whatsoever.
Current methods of treatment for chronic pain typically involve narcotics – and often at the expense of how the patients feels.
Studies performed by Firsthand Technologies reveal VR pain relief simulations help patients to feel better whereas narcotics desensitise feelings, yet has a better success rate of easing pain than conventional medicine.
Clinical research show the usability and the effectiveness of VR reduces the amount of time the brain thinks about pain. VR is, therefore, being used as a healing path to help relief patients of temporary pain.
Surgeons require an immense amount of knowledge, skill and practice. VR simulations deliver on all three counts by helping surgeons to learn, develop and plan surgery without having to lift a scalpel.
Furthermore, practising surgical operations is the most stimulating part of a student’s training. But it is also the most nerve-wracking. No amount of training can prepare a student for their first attempt at surgery. Until now!
Developers can create any surgical procedure using 3D simulators that enable students, and qualified practitioners to refine their skills. Surgeons can see, feel and experience what it’s actually like to perform surgery, even down to the distractive noises that typically occur in an operating theatre.
The use of VR technology is not reserved as a training platform for med students. The same training programs developed for the classroom can also be used by experienced surgeons to plan operations.
With VR it is possible to recreate any situation, and this includes the likely outcome for a patient if the surgeon were to make a mistake.
VR is the next-generation technology for planning surgical operations and troubleshooting complications. By investing in VR, medical practitioners have the potential to develop groundbreaking treatments without trial and error on real-life cases.
The immersive nature of virtual reality is also delivering positive results in post-surgery and patients recovering from illness or accidents.
Video gesture control encourages patients to stretch and move their limbs in simulated environments that are fun and engaging. By developing programs with therapeutic benefits, patients can enjoy their rehabilitation rather than fearing it.
Other devices have been designed to help patients tackle cognitive disabilities developed as a result of an accident or psychological trauma.
VR applications can incorporate brain imaging which allows medical practitioners to identify which areas of the brain are being stimulated during specific experiences.
Applications that have been developed to treat patients with cognitive disabilities range from autism in children to dementia in the elderly, and have been trialled by home groups in Britain in addition to medical institutions.
The full extent to which VR can be used in the health industry has only scratched the surface, but it is already clear to see the how the technology can drive the medical profession to the next level.