Virtual reality is not just a growing trend in the entertainment industry, but is now reaching the healthcare field. As the technology improves and develops, the uses of virtual reality expand for doctors, students, and patients. It could potentially allow doctors to address some of the most challenging medical programs, help patients understand more about their treatment plan and disease, and educate future physicians.
According to a press release, MediSolutions, a medical device company, hopes to use virtual reality to change how patients are educated in their newest virtual reality platform, MediVRx. The product is said to provide virtual reality educational programming of 3D reconstruction of the human body at a molecular level on topics like Type 2 Diabetes and Atrial Fibrillation.
The press release further notes that virtual reality studies “show that the retention of information delivered via VR is much higher than traditional videos” in a way that patients “won’t just see information – they’ll feel it.” MediVRx is set to be launched in March of 2018.
MediSolutions indicates in the press release that they plan to use virtual reality to give patients a better understanding of their diagnoses and treatments as well as a memorable experience to encourage patient adherence to treatment plans. Neil Keene, the president of MediSolutions explained a company press release:
“Imagine a patient diagnosed with cancer, seeing firsthand how their body functions from the inside out, learning the way in which cancer is infiltrating their internal system and organs, and how a proposed medication can directly influence and correct the prognosis.”
MediSolutions’ system is just one example of the ways virtual reality is being used in the healthcare field.
Virtual reality is also being used to educate medical students. Earlier this year, according to an article in the Guardian, surgeon Shafi Ahmed live-streamed his operation using virtual reality. The article notes that students were allowed to access the camera, observe the surgery, and ask questions which Dr. Ahmed answered while he carried out the surgery.
Students can not only observe from the doctor’s perspective, but can also experience the patient’s perspective. According to an article online, one lab has created a program, “We Are Alfred,” to experience a hypothetical patient’s life – specifically, a 74 year old man named Alfred. Participants use a virtual reality headset, headphones, and hand tracking devices and are fully immersed into Alfred’s story. Participants see and hear as Alfred would, including hearing loss and macular degeneration. This program is said to connect patients and doctors in ways they haven’t before, taking “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” to a new level – a virtual reality level.
Platforms can go further than immersive observations of patient and doctor perspectives to allow students to practice operations in a virtual setting. Programs like ImmersiveTouch are said to be able to replicate surgical touch and feel of specific medical devices.
Beyond education, virtual reality technology is being used to directly treat patients. Some programs are being designed to directly treat conditions. As one example, according to a Forbes article, UbiSoft is introducing a game called Dig Rush to treat children with amblyopia.