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More Medical Applications for VR and AR

Virtual reality and augmented reality technologies have come a long way since their inception. What was once thought of as science fiction is now being used in various industries, including the medical field! The applications of VR and AR are vast, ranging from training medical professionals to treating patients. As technology continues to advance, new possibilities for VR and AR in medicine are constantly emerging. In today’s blog, we’ll explore some of the ways VR and AR are being used in healthcare. 

via Giphy

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Making up for lost time

VR medical training is making up for time and experience lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, Stamford Health has partnered with Oxford Medical Simulation to create a VR metaverse training program for nurses in Connecticut. 

The program uses a safe and controlled virtual environment to allow nurses to practice caring for virtual patients with simulated medical conditions, conduct head-to-toe assessments, identify changes in hemodynamics and lab values, and practice communication skills with other medical professionals. Intended to supplement hands-on training, and offer an immersive training experience for young millennials and Gen-Zers familiar with gaming technology, this program allows nurses-in-training to hone their skills without risks.  

via Stamford Advocate

Executive Director of Research at Stamford Health, Suzanne J. Rose, notes that VR is giving nurses-in-training hands-on-experience they may have lost while in school at the height of the pandemic: “We are giving them an extra boost on clinical experience that they missed out on. They [can] experience a situation in the virtual world that they might not have been able to see because they didn’t have that bedside experience that they would have had if COVID didn’t happen.”

This VR medical training program for nurses is a promising solution to the time and experience lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. It goes to show that this efficient use of technology in the medical field can help students and professionals keep up with their education and training, particularly in times of crisis!

Immersive and accessible remote care

You don’t always have to go to a doctor’s office to receive VR or AR based treatments! As HealthNews reports, the use of VR and AR in telemedicine is booming, and healthcare providers are starting to use these technologies more often to provide more immersive remote patient care. 

For example, XRHealth is a company that provides patients with virtual reality and augmented reality treatments. The company specializes in developing immersive technologies that can be used for both physical and cognitive therapy, pain management, rehabilitation, and wellness. 

Their platform enables healthcare professionals to prescribe personalized VR/AR therapy programs. These programs can be accessed remotely through XRHealth’s VR headset or a patient’s own device. So far, XRHealth’s solutions have been used by hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and clinics to treat various conditions such as chronic pain, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and anxiety disorders.

Additionally, medical applications of VR and AR can help address the challenges of accessibility and affordability. These immersive technologies offer solutions that can benefit patients facing barriers to accessing healthcare services.

One of the significant advantages of VR and AR is their ability to bridge the gap between patients and healthcare providers, particularly for those living in remote or rural areas. In such areas, access to specialized medical facilities or experts may be limited. VR and AR can bring virtual healthcare experiences directly to these patients, enabling them to receive medical consultations, diagnostic assessments, and even treatments without the need for extensive travel or relocation. 

Furthermore, VR and AR technologies can also address the needs of patients with mobility issues. Many individuals with physical disabilities or limited mobility find it challenging to visit healthcare facilities regularly. VR and AR can eliminate physical barriers by allowing remote consultations and treatments to take place within the comfort of the patient’s home. This not only saves them from the difficulties associated with transportation but also provides a more convenient and comfortable healthcare experience.

VR and AR can also make healthcare services more affordable. By leveraging these technologies, healthcare providers can optimize resources, reduce costs associated with traditional healthcare delivery, and streamline processes. For example, virtual consultations can minimize the need for in-person visits, reducing travel expenses and time off work for both patients and healthcare professionals. This can result in significant cost savings for patients and healthcare systems, making quality healthcare more affordable and sustainable. As VR and AR continue to advance, their integration into healthcare systems holds great promise for improving the overall well-being of patients, as well as promoting equitable access to quality care.

VR for pain management

Can virtual reality help relieve physical pain? We’re finding out more and more about its potential to do so as each year passes! This technology has already shown promise in reducing pain in burn victims and children undergoing medical procedures.

In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of virtual reality as a means of pain relief. According to a Forbes article published earlier this year, the study examined patients receiving a bone marrow biopsy, with one group using traditional pain relief and the other using VR. The VR group could choose from four imaginary 3D VR environments to interact with during the procedure, and the results showed that patients did not perceive a significant difference in the intensity of pain between the traditional method and the VR option. 

Perhaps most importantly, the study demonstrated that the VR-based pain relief method was not only well-tolerated but also resulted in high levels of patient and physician satisfaction. The study’s results indicate that VR has the potential to be an effective and satisfying pain management option for patients. 

As you can see in the video below, this isn’t the first time VR has shown promising results when it comes to alleviating chronic pain. We’re excited to see more positive results as VR medical technology continues to advance!

Groundbreaking treatments for mental health and neurological conditions 

Another application of VR and AR in medicine is in the treatment of mental health disorders. As noted in this article from The Toledo Blade, virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is effective in treating conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and phobias. 

How does VRET work? Patients are immersed in a virtual environment that simulates the scenario that triggers their symptoms. This allows them to confront their fears in a safe and controlled environment.

AR is also being used to help patients with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke to improve their motor skills. Patients can use AR-based rehabilitation tools to practice specific movements and tasks in a virtual environment.

Recently, StrydAR and Activelook developed the world’s first pair of Parkinson’s Walking Glasses that use augmented reality to project visual cues to help those with Parkinson’s disease to improve their mobility. The glasses project an “Augmented Marker” into the user’s field of view, using a process called “Focused to Infinity” to display a hologram three meters in front of the wearer to improve posture, balance, and mobility. 

The glasses have been designed to look like ordinary sunglasses, and in a small pilot study, five out of seven participants reported improved stability, confidence, balance, and reduced cognitive load associated with walking. The glasses are expected to improve the independence, quality of life, physical activity, social interaction, mental health, mood, and even cognitive function of those with Parkinson’s. We’ll be on the look out for more research on these glasses as it’s published!

If you didn’t know before, now you do – the potential applications of VR and AR in medicine are vast. From training medical professionals to treating patients, the possibilities are endless. As medical professionals continue to explore the potential of VR and AR, we can expect to see more advances in the field of medicine that will ultimately lead to better, more effective medical education and treatments.

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