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Past few years have witnessed Virtual reality (VR) taking the world by storm and this trend is only getting popular with every passing day. Rapidly evolving technologies around us are changing the way we see the world and how different industries operate. Although VR has revolutionized the gaming industry, it is not restricted to a particular field any more. Different industries are developing newer methods and processes to make use of the latest technologies to improve their processes.
There have been a lot of talks and discussions about the use of VR in the healthcare industry, with numerous applications of virtual reality already being implemented in healthcare. Applications such as robotic surgery, healthcare devices, etc. are slowly gaining popularity and are now more likely to be adopted by various healthcare organizations and accepted by the people. In this article we have talked about virtual reality and its applications in healthcare.
Healthcare is one of the biggest adopters of VR, which encompasses robotic surgery, phobia treatment, surgery simulation, and skills training, to name a few. Many healthcare organizations across the globe have started making use of VR in their operations and have realized its benefits. The launch of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive has further augmented the usage of VR in various industries. Some of the key applications of virtual reality in medicine are listed here -
VR simulation technologies are being used in medical education and training, for a long time now. Major VR-based companies are developing products which combine 360-degree video and 3D interactive content to develop the best possible learning programs for physicians and students. This technology allows them to practice complex, life-saving procedures in a risk-free environment, improve their skills, and get usability feedback during the process. Today, Virtual Reality is also making inroads in nursing.
VR is being used as a powerful diagnostic tool, which helps doctors and physicians to carry out accurate diagnosis. This is done in combination with other methods, such as MRI/CT scans, and eliminates the need for any kind of invasive techniques, making it a pain-free experience for the patient.
Exposure therapy is one of the standard procedures for treating different types of mental illness. VR is slowly changing the way exposure therapy is being carried out for mentally ill patients, by providing a low cost, flexible and low-risk solution to treat mental illnesses. By providing new ways to keep the body relaxed and calm, VR also helps in treating anxiety and panic attacks.
Cognitive distraction methods have been used by physicians to treat different types of pain for a long time now. VR provides a new face to these distraction methods by providing various interactive games. These games are played in a simulated environment and are loaded with interactive features. While some apps provide therapeutic VR for burn victims, there are also significantly advanced measures that facilitate efficient limb pain management. Furthermore, VR serves as a drug-free pain management alternative, which can be used with or without clinical care settings.
The fitness industry is experiencing a huge change in the way exercises are carried out today. Many startups in the industry are combining cardio routines with VR and changing the way we exercise. Stepping further, VR also has a major role in physical therapy, where patients are subjected to an exercise routine that incorporates VR instead of drugs or invasive surgeries.
Virtual reality in surgery has been around for some time now and has gained tremendous popularity among the physician community. The surgery is performed by a robotic devise, which is controlled by a human surgeon. This method reduces the time and risk associated with the surgery complications. VR plays a major role in tele-surgery, which is performed by the surgeon on a patient at a different location. The feature of force feedback helps the surgeon to measure the amount of pressure that needs to be applied while performing a delicate procedure, such as dentistry, etc.
VR is very helpful in various human simulation techniques and enables doctors, physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals to interact with others. They can engage in different training sessions and interact with a patient, but only in a 3D environment. This is an immersive experience which determines the emotions of the participant using a series of sensors.
Apart from the applications mentioned above, there are numerous other applications of VR in healthcare, some of which are listed below -
It is a well-known fact that VR has a lot of potential to revolutionize different industries, such as entertainment, healthcare, sports, gaming, etc. Healthcare is one industry, which can benefit the maximum from the VR technologies. Some of the leading healthcare companies are creating breakthrough technologies and products using VR, some of those are listed below -
With the primary emphasis on pain relief, Deepstream VR developed an app that distracts patients and places them in a landscape with changing seasons with a mix of different creatures in it.
This company is working on creating a simulation-based surgical exploration and training. They use a series of simulators with a digitally replicated environment.
In an attempt to use VR in various treatments and therapies, "Virtually Better" developed various therapies, with the most notable being "exposure therapy". Here, the patient is exposed to an anxiety-causing stimulus in a controlled environment, which facilitates faster recovery of the patients.
Working on a stimulating surgery using their "Virtual Surgeon", Medical Realities has developed a 360-degree video, which unlike traditional still surgery videos, provides a detailed perspective of the surgery to help surgeons stay better prepared when they step into the operation theater for the first time.
This company is developing a simulated surgery system, which allows users to use their hands.
This organization represents a possible synergy between gaming and healthcare using VR to promote positive health effects, such as fitness, good hygiene, etc.
This is a company that constantly checks on lonely elders and supplements them with family caregivers. They regularly stay in touch with the senior citizens to reduce their emotional burden, increase the quality of senior care, and proactively manage preventable health issues.
VR's popularity is on the rise, and this trend will continue in the near future. According to the latest reports, it is predicted that there will more than 2 million non-Google VR devices by the end of 2017, and a staggering 37 million devices in use by the end of 2020. VR industry is still in the initial stages and the growth is set to be only upwards from here on.
Healthcare organizations are increasingly making use of VR in diagnosis, treatment, and other training purposes. This trend is only expected to get better with newer technologies and faster Internet speeds. The VR industry is set to hit a massive $30 billion industry by the year 2020 with an expectation of over 135 million VR headsets being used regularly by the year 2025.
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