Nowadays virtual reality for healthcare is a rising market which provides unlimited opportunities and attracts a lot of companies. Despite the fact that the fastest growth in the industry is fed by the demand for video games and entertainment, a huge share belongs to healthcare.
VR technology is rapidly improving the way healthcare sector works. It has already been employed for diagnostics, treatment planning, training of future surgeons and dentists, and a variety of healthcare software solutions. Moreover, it is used for the treatment of severe conditions such as phobias, autism, depression, addictions, and PTSD. According to Global Industry Analysts, the worldwide market for Virtual Reality solutions for healthcare is expected to reach $3.8 billion by 2020, as the demand for such technology is unlikely to slow down.
Possibilities major VR devices give to Healthcare
The VR market is proliferating. Software development and content creation are getting richer and this is just the beginning. Let’s have a look at what is happening and discover more about the top VR devices and their applications in healthcare:
Google Cardboard makes Virtual Reality available for everyone for the price as low as $1,89. It transforms a smartphone into a VR headset by just one piece of cardboard folded to enclose the device. It has already shown its efficiency in healthcare. As far as Google Cardboard is less advanced than other VR devices, it is mostly applied in healthcare education and training of future specialists. It can be used as a tool for mapping organs by using the 360-degree image and videos in virtual reality to effectively plan pioneering surgery techniques.
Samsung Gear VR allows people to use their phone for an unforgettable VR experience. This device gives patients a possibility to discover the world of virtual reality applications that can help reduce the pain and stress levels during medical procedures. It gives more opportunities for better interaction with the VR content than Google Cardboard since it has better lenses, touch controllers, and additional sensors.
HTC Vive gives a possibility to have a truly interactive experience by combining a VR headset, 2 controllers, and positional tracking system. The headset boosts Stream VR platform by Valve, which allows users to better interact with objects. It is widely applied for training and educating individuals in healthcare centers and schools who want to learn something in a practical mode. Furthermore, it can be used for applications aimed at treatment of phobias and PTSD.
Oculus Rift is yet another VR device widely applied in the healthcare sector. The headset is one of the market leaders as it provides truly immersive virtual reality experience. It’s not surprising that Facebook bought it for $2 billion. There is a lot of healthcare content exploiting the possibilities of Oculus. For instance, there’s the VR experience which helps amputees with Phantom Limb Syndrome. They feel like their missing limb is still present and even experience itching sensations just by seeing a virtual recreation of that limb. Moreover, it can be used for medical examinations and training sessions.
HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are by far the most advanced VR headsets in creating totally immersive surrounding for healthcare applications and have made adoption of the latest VR therapies more accessible to the public.
Besides full VR technology, there is a notion of Mixed Reality which is a fusion of real and virtual worlds producing new environments that can coexist and interact in real time. For example, you can picture surgeons overlaying virtual ultrasound images on their patient while performing an operation.
Microsoft HoloLens is the major device associated with MR. It presents the first self-contained holographic computer using smart-glass headsets. This device can offer a whole world of potential for the healthcare industry. For example, it can be used in educating medical personnel (for hologram modeling of organs and body systems), for creating simulated environments. In addition, it can realistically train for disaster response and coach nurses on first-aid techniques.
VR Games for Healthcare
The Lab was developed by Valve Corporation, and released on April 5, 2016. This game utilizes VR technology and the HTC Vive device to display a series of entertaining experiences accessed through a hub room. The game is set in the Portal universe and offers eight mini-games. One of them is Human Medical Scan which is a medical-based experience. It encloses the future possibilities and application of VR technology in the healthcare sector. Human Medical Scan uses a 3D human figure that is made up of a large number of CT scans. The player can peel away layers of the body to look at specific biological features.
Deep is one of the most popular VR games used for helping patients relax and control their breathing designed by Owen Harris. It utilizes biofeedback and reinforces a positive attitude while the users explore the mysterious underwater world. As a result, it reduces the pain and anxiety.
SnowWorld was developed by a psychologist Hunter Hoffman. This VR game helps patients forget their pain by exploring a magical, snowbound environment while listening to the music of Paul Simon. One earlier study of soldiers who had endured burns from an IED attack found that SnowWorld was even more effective in terms of relieving the pain than morphine. It has applications for chronic pain management too.
Deep Stream VR
Deep Stream VR may be easily called pioneering in relieving pain. It does not only help reduce stress and pain levels but builds resilience and improves the quality of life. It is a part of the next generation of intelligent VR games with biofeedback that stimulates the user function at his optimal performance level.
VR Solutions for treatment
Virtually Better is attempting to use VR in various therapies and treatments. One of the most notable uses is exposure therapy. It is aimed at gradually exposing the patient to a stimulus which causes them anxiety in a controlled environment. After a number of experiences with the stimulus in a controlled and friendly environment, the patient will eventually stop associating that stimulus with fear. One such example of this is called Bravemind which is a VR-based exposure therapy for treatment of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
A cancer surgeon from Royal London Hospital Shafi Ahmed has recently live streamed an operation using Medical Realities for more than 50,000 people worldwide. This software was developed at his VR startup combining 360 video, 3D, and interactive content as well as providing an opportunity to see an operation through the eyes of a consultant surgeon. The spectators can zoom in on the doctor’s movements and even observe the operation from various angles.
Currently, PsyTech is designing science-based Phobos to help millions of people struggling with paranoia, phobias, and PTSD. Through virtual reality simulations, the patients are faced with the object of their fear, ramping up the exposure until they are able to cope without stress. The procedure is affordable for veterans, civilians who went through traumatic experiences, and others who suffer from social anxiety disorders. The patients show great improvement even after small sessions.
On the whole, clinicians, patients, and caretakers can now benefit from Virtual Reality solutions for healthcare and practice any kind of operations with no risk. VR technology is now being widely used for the treatment of severe conditions such as PTSD, depression, addictions, and many other. Soon, the integration between VR and many other innovations such as Artificial Intelligence or big data will bring the future of healthcare to your local medical center and this is just the beginning.