One fine evening you take your usual place in the recliner sofa sitting in a corner of your living room.
You then put the head gear on, and suddenly everything changes ….
Your living room disappears from sight.
You are transported to a huge dark dungeon.
There’s an eerie silence.
Raise your eyes to the ceiling, and you find that the roof is hovering dangerously close above your head.
In awe and suspense of your surroundings, you warily glance around and see a trail of flickering candles embedded within the ancient-looking brick wall.
The dim light from the candles is leading a path down into a narrow alleyway.
You look around everywhere, only to find several more alleyways.
The space feels claustrophobic, and now you’re starting to feel a bit uncomfortable.
You begin to wonder, did you just teleport to the medieval ages?
Or is that still the 21st century, and perhaps what you are wearing over your head is a Virtual Reality Headset.
Given that Newton’s laws haven’t yet accounted for teleportation as being an actual thing, it’s the latter option which is likely to be true.
Virtual Reality it is !
VR began as a hugely popular thing in the gaming world and is most widely known among people for the dramatic evolution it stirred up in gamer experience, however, that is not the only avenue it has touched. In spite of the fact that VR pulls out its major sales (approximately 61%) from boosting the demanding gamer’s experience to this day, yet it has simultaneously helped evolve the lives of people with various health conditions.
It would be unfair to say that Virtual Reality hasn’t proved equally transformational in the healthcare world. By artificially stimulating our sensory abilities such as that of vision, hearing, touch and smell, virtual reality has greatly aided in treating certain afflictions.
Some major breakthroughs made by incorporating virtual reality in medicinal field are the following.
VR for Doctors and Medical Professionals
The VR techniques have not only established convenient grounds for patients but for doctors as well. It’s a tool making life easier than ever.
VR is revolutionizing life-saving techniques and introducing new strategies to the future doctors, it has also birthed a number of proficient softwares and such applications that serve purpose in healthcare, from clinical to the consumer.
Virtual reality provides an interactive environment with 3D features to doctor’s nurses and other medical personnel, enabling them to train the patient by giving them an immersive experience involving one’s emotions being measured by a series of sensors.
This process of going through training before the doctors and nurses indulge themselves in the actual treatment procedure has helped greatly.
Using VR for Surgical Training
In the medical field, there often is a need for risky surgical procedures to be performed on patients for treatment or cure of certain diseases, but this has always been a rather high-risk and tricky task for surgeons, with the patients well-being at stake.
Here, however, the VR simulation concept, which was first introduced for training pilots to fly F-16 fighter aircrafts, is now also being utilized to create 360-degree virtual models of a patient’s anatomy and thereby providing pediatric surgeons with a detailed planning tool before they actually perform the procedure.
At present, it is famously being used at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa as well as UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals for both neurosurgery and heart surgery. One of the successful procedures carried out using VR was that of saving the lives of conjoined twin sisters.
Using VR to Help Solve Mental Health Problems
In 1997, the use of VR in treating war soldiers with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) had first begun, however, at the time there was less known about VR potential and the possible expansion of its utility within the mental healthcare field.
Today, with advancements in both disease knowledge and technology, virtual reality is successfully being used for the treatment of psychological problems such as PTSD and Phobia Disorders.
PTSD is a progressive condition, which can worsen for a patient over time and its treatment is equally challenging to administer. However, with the aid of VR, mental health professionals cautiously expose the PTSD patient to the stress-triggering stimuli, inculcating and promoting the patient to develop resistance against these.
Although this is not the sole method for treatment, but coupled with the regular procedures, it does serve as an extremely helpful aid in hastening the recovery process.
A similar approach is also used to treat people who suffer from phobia disorders. The method which is known as ‘Desensitization’ among professionals (slowly exposing the object of fear) is performed on patients in a virtual environment, and significantly helps minimize the phobic effect that the patient experiences.
Using VR for Eye Care Technology
As we take a look around in the current world, we see some pioneering virtual solutions aimed at changing the face of healthcare as we know it. Approximately 135 million people globally have visual impairment disease commonly known as low vision. It is a visual impairment that may be caused due to several reasons such as aging, injury, or other eye diseases.
Till this very day, the use of eye lens, spectacles, and various eye surgeries has served as the only solution for their condition, which has been rather unreliable in some cases, and only temporarily slowing down the deteriorating conditions while also posing its hazardous long-term side-effects on human health.
Also, despite treatment procedures being available, there were still patients who did not have a chance of seeing again after they had been struck with some degenerative eye disease.
However, healthcare professionals and tech experts have collaboratively come up with visual solutions which are basically shaped around the concept of virtual reality. The concept of VR reduces the need of invasive procedures or surgeries, thus cutting down on their hazardous aspects while still benefiting the user fully.
The modern low vision devices such as IrisVision proved to be immensely valuable to people in order to recover their sight and help make the best use of their remaining vision. Such devices offer elaborate options for patients to choose from, for instance, their preferred level of magnification, color contrasts, and ambient light levels. With this technology, patients can perform activities that require hand-eye coordination in a simulation.
VR Use in Minimizing Chronic Pain
Aside from VR being used directly for treatment procedures, there is another important aspect to it, which is minimizing chronic pain experienced by patients due to the diseases they suffer from.
We observe that there has yet been only one method of curing pain, which was the use of opiates. Apparently these painkillers have served as the only rehabilitation available for chronic pain, even though sedation and anesthesia can often be risky for elderly people or very frail patients.
Also, as shown by research, the human body eventually immunes itself against painkillers and they turn out to be addictive, which renders them ineffective over a longer span of time. In such cases, medical personnel have tried to come up with non-addictive solutions of reducing pain sensation for people, and it was eventually found that VR could be a game changer as techniques such as virtual therapy leaves a huge impact on one’s brain ultimately numbing the pain receptors and reducing the sensation by 25 percent.
As a result of advanced VR technology, hospitals are now recommending VR headsets to their patients as a means of reducing pain during major procedures. For patients who are undergoing chemo infusions, it has served very effective in reducing their anxiousness, and for children, it makes the painful procedures way less frightening.
As discussed above, VR has proved to hold powerful potential of further progress in the field of healthcare as it rekindles the hope for diseased and disabled people who are relentlessly looking to regain the enrichment in their lives and be rid of their medical conditions that handicap them from living a fuller life.
Relaxing in hospitals, restoring low vision, numbness to pain are just a few things VR has so far been able to evolve. It has turned out as a successful diagnostic tool which cuts down the need for lengthy procedures which is a comfort for every person. Technology is taking over the world and preferences of people have shifted from long and expensive to cheap and quick. VR is beneficial to market as it serves its purpose well.