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Gone are the days of trial and error practice on ‘real’ patients, for medical students and mature Doctors alike. Thankfully for all of us who might be either getting a routine procedure done or nervous about an invasive complex surgery; we can rest a little easier knowing our Medical Professionals have probably practiced and honed their skills in VR. The technology is finally giving healthcare the tools it desperately needs to improve training, provide services in a virtual environment, and educate patients.
Companies like Precision OS Technology, enables users to perform critical aspects of fracture surgery in an immersive, highly realistic setting; which allows for repetition and objective performance measures. Likewise, Trois Prime Lab provides VR Training procedures including knee surgery, hip replacements and sleeve gastrectomy. Similarly, one of the benefits of immersive technology is that the user feels the same amount of mental pressure and physical stressors of a procedure in a modified environment tailored to meet the requirements of specific real-life situations. In effect, VR/AR environmental simulations are giving healthcare professionals the vital experience they need when performing under adverse emergency and natural disaster conditions.
For example, the Thomas Jefferson University DICE initiative is preparing providers to work successfully in high-acuity disaster and emergency situations. In addition, the company INVIVO, enables Surgical Simulation with full interactive large-scale medical devices to smaller hand tools in a typical operating room environment. Both help practitioners know what to expect and prepares them to work efficiently in varied circumstances and environments.
With an aging large generation of baby boomers, in conjunction with average population medical needs, there are not enough Doctors to keep up with the overall demand of care. As a good first step, VR/AR can now enable some medical services to be performed in a virtual environment. For example, the VRHealth Group VRPhysio enables a series of full-body exercises for physical rehab, stimulates patients to perform specific movements and provides real-time data to track progress.
Thomas Jefferson University DICE initiative also provides rehab in VR for cardiac patients. The gamified experiences provide immediate feedback and encouragement to help patients stick with their rehab program, while tracking real-time data and generating progress reports. This can be used for supervised remote in-home care. Some other companies in VR/AR medical services include VR4Neuropain, which combines VR headsets with haptic feedback and bio-medical sensors to integrate virtual and conventional rehabilitation for neuropathic pain; and RelaxVR which provides immersive experiences for stress relief and behavior modification.
One of the biggest issues in healthcare is lack of staff and funding to educate patients on a myriad of programs to improve their outcomes and overall health. VR/AR applications are tackling this problem by educating patients before and after medical treatment. Many Doctors agree that mental preparation before a procedure is just a critical for the patient, as is the surgeon. The company IKONA for example, provides immersive pre-op VR experiences for patients and medical personnel to address factors that may improve patient outcomes. Another patient application geared for aftercare, is an AR enabled pill box that helps heavy prescribed patients order and manage their medication schedule. This can reduce post-op anxiety and give the user a sense of control over their lives. Also helping educate patients in VR/AR is Order 66 Labs; which provides simulations of treatment with groups and medical specialists for recovering addicts. As a result, patients are more likely to participate, and stress less during and after a procedure or intervention.
Ultimately, healthcare is adapting to the changing needs of the population by creating new tools and methods of care. VR/AR is helping in training, providing services and of course, education. Never before have opportunities in healthcare had such a reach and impact in people’s lives. Even in remote places like the Pacific region, VR in healthcare is making a difference. The company Second Muse Legends, created interactive narratives that teach children and their families about traditional eating and how to make healthy food choices to combat obesity. VR/AR in healthcare is the future of care and the future is now.
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