Virtual Reality (VR) is a rapidly growing technology in almost every industry imaginable. From gaming to real estate, VR offers an immersive experience that transports users into a digital world.
VR impacts the medical sector, especially in training medical students and helping with the diagnosis and treatment of patients. This technology is transforming how we approach healthcare. Let’s examine some of the best use cases for virtual reality in medicine.
Common uses for virtual reality in the medicine
Virtual reality has been used in the medical industry since the 1960s, but only recently have we begun to explore its full potential. Here are some modern-day applications for VR:
1. Medical training
One of the most common applications of virtual reality in healthcare is medical training. It is a versatile tool – useful for students studying medicine and experienced professionals needing additional practice or refresher courses.
VR simulations provide medical students with hands-on experience that won’t risk patient safety. Highly skilled surgeons can hone their craft on simulated surgeries before performing them on actual patients.
Did you know? Schools are also using VR for teaching anatomy in the classroom.
Check out this fascinating video which demonstrates how hospital administrators are helping surgeons with real-time patient information.
2. Emergency training
Virtual reality is excellent for training nurses and other medical professionals in emergencies.
Some hospitals use VR simulations to help staff prepare for challenging scenarios such as responding to a mass casualty event or managing an infectious disease outbreak.
Simulations allow them to learn how to respond quickly and effectively under pressure without escalating the crisis.
3. Treating mental illnesses
VR can help diagnose and treat mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. Patients are immersed in situations that simulate their symptoms.
For example, patients with a social anxiety disorder could join a virtual crowd and practice interacting with others. The sufferer could repeat this activity in the safety of their own home or a clinic until real-life socializing becomes easier.
Exposure therapy may be highly effective when placing patients into virtual scenarios that recreate their traumas. This approach is preferable to alternatives, such as forcing them to relive traumatic events by visiting the actual location where the incident occurred.
There is massive potential for treating police officers suffering from PTSD. Check out all the applications for virtual reality in the police force here.
Telemedicine can provide remote care via a VR session. The obvious benefit is that the medical professional isn’t at risk of contracting an illness. But there are further advantages, like providing more detailed consultations and showing patients three-dimensional models of their condition.
VR technology also helps reduce wait times and enables healthcare providers to give better care from anywhere in the world. Patients in countries with limited health care stand to take advantage of VR.
5. Rehabilitation and physical therapy
Virtual reality assists with physical rehabilitation sessions. It helps patients replicate difficult real-world movements due to injury or disability.
A patient with a broken limb could use VR software for quicker rehabilitation. While rehab practitioners are essential to recovery, they can’t always be around. With VR, the recovering patient can practice moving their arms or legs safely using the guidance of their headset.
VR also gives therapists additional tools to design treatment plans tailored specifically to an individual’s needs and abilities.
Did you know? VR is also having a big impact in the sports industry, including helping players overcome injury. Check out these incredible uses for VR in the sports industry.
6. Mental wellness
While VR is helpful for training and many practical applications, it is also highly beneficial for mental health. Bed-ridden patients are transported to another dimension, allowing them to experience exciting new worlds.
What is Virtual Reality?
Before diving into its uses, it helps to understand virtual reality and how it works. An artificial environment is created using high-end computer hardware and specialized software.
Users immerse themselves in a 3D world that seems life-like. They can interact in this environment using body movements, tactile controllers, or other input devices.
Some VR systems use headsets with multiple cameras that track the user’s head movements and adjust the view accordingly. The user feels inside the virtual world rather than just viewing it on a regular monitor or television screen.
Disadvantages of virtual reality in medicine
The use of virtual reality in medicine has opened new avenues for medical professionals to diagnose and treat patients. This tech also comes with its own set of risks and potential drawbacks.
One of the first concerns when using VR in healthcare is the potential risks to patients. While most virtual scenarios are designed with safety protocols in mind, there could be unforeseen risks associated with using this technology on humans.
Risk of invalid diagnosis
An incorrect diagnosis could result if the simulation is inaccurate or the system provides erroneous information.
Medical professionals could make decisions based on what they see in the virtual environment rather than relying on real-world observations. Mistakes happen if something unexpected happens within the simulation, such as an error within the program code.
There’s also a chance that mistakes made by inexperienced doctors could result in incorrect diagnosis or treatment.
VR is known to cause motion sickness in some users, which may further complicate the sufferer’s condition. However, there are ways to overcome motion sickness.
High cost of implementation
The cost of implementing VR into medical practices may be excessive. Hardware such as headsets, gloves, and computers for creating a 3D environment is costly. Software licenses and training costs add to the required investment.
Many hospitals don’t have access to adequate funding for these types of projects. It could take years before they can implement a full-scale VR program into their operations.
How is augmented reality being used in medicine?
Augmented reality can be used for diagnosis, providing doctors with an interactive 3D view of their patient’s anatomy.
AR technology offers medical professionals information to make informed decisions in less time than traditional methods like x-rays and MRI scans. It also helps reduce errors caused by misdiagnoses or overlooked symptoms.
Augmented reality makes it easier for surgeons to plan operations by providing them with 3D images of the patient’s anatomy before making an incision.
In the preoperative planning stages, surgeons can simulate different surgical approaches to decide the most beneficial option for the patient. This helps save time and money while reducing risks associated with traditional surgery preparation methods.
Education and training
AR provides a safe way for medical students and professionals to practice procedures without putting anyone at risk. They can gain real-world experience without any danger associated with live training sessions.
It also enables medical schools and hospitals to develop more effective training programs by providing visuals that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to replicate in the traditional classroom setting.
Related reading: Innovative uses for virtual reality in real estate.
There are many uses for virtual reality in medicine. It is ideal for training medical professionals, diagnosing diseases, and treating mental health disorders remotely.
As this technology advances, its applications will likely expand into areas we have yet to consider.