Virtual reality is becoming a part of our daily lives at an astonishing pace. While the primary use was for gaming purposes, VR is more and more used in many other sectors and industries. You can find it in education, engineering, sports, advertising, entertainment, healthcare, and many other fields. However, the goal of this article is to analyze the ways virtual reality is transforming healthcare.

Even though many industries benefit from using VR, healthcare is a special case here. Everyone must go to the doctor’s office at some point. You can’t avoid that. Because of that, implementing VR in healthcare was most definitely a clever decision. The importance of VR in healthcare has reached new peaks, and its use is present in many medical fields.

Ways virtual reality is transforming healthcare

So, how is virtual reality transforming healthcare? We can look at it from two perspectives:

  • from a doctor’s perspective,
  • from a patient’s perspective.

In reality, both of those have the same goal, to make people feel better and be healthier. However, the use of VR from these two angles is different. While doctors and healthcare workers use it for educational purposes, patients use it as a therapy to treat symptoms.

Planning a surgery with virtual reality

One of the main uses of VR in healthcare is in planning surgery. Surgeons use this tool to prepare for any procedures and go through all the steps without any pressure. By being able to visualize the entire process, the success of the surgery is greatly increased.

Using VR to learn

Medical students and many doctors learn body structure by using virtual reality. You can completely analyze the human body, starting from the skeleton, nervous system, muscles, and much more. This kind of learning offers unique possibilities, and the quality of future doctors is heightened.

A 3D model of a human showing body structure and various data - VR in healthcare.
VR is useful both in learning medicine and performing complicated surgeries. Both of these fields require a stress-free environment.

Insight into elderly healthcare issues

By using virtual reality, a doctor can easily step into the shoes of the elderly, and experience life from their perspective. This valuable insight can provide important data in healthcare. The entire process of treatment can be altered and adjusted to the patient in a more productive way.

Using VR with skin burn patients

The progress of virtual reality treatment with patients who experienced burn pain showed amazing results. The usual way of treatment with medicine was successful, but it had its side effects as well. For example, a large number of patients would get addicted to medicine as a way to deal with pain. Moreover, the majority developed tolerance to the medication after continuous use, and the effect was drastically reduced. That was especially important when treating children.

However, virtual reality treatment showed completely different results. A program called Snow World was developed, and its only goal was to reduce the pain. The entire setting was made in a way to simulate the feeling of coldness. Patients were exposed to the frosting atmosphere, and they could also interact with it by using a mouse.

The trial was successful, and all the patients said that the pain was reduced from 30% to 50%.

Phantom limb treatment

Another fantastic example in which virtual reality is transforming healthcare is its use in treating phantom limb symptoms. With patients who have lost a limb, there is a feeling of stiffness and constant pain, even though the limb is not there. Muscles often remain in a spasm which is hard to release.

A photo representing the effect of VR on our brain - VR in healthcare.
Virtual reality stimulates our brain and, that can be useful when treating many symptoms, like phantom limb or pain from burns.

Similar to the treatment with a mirror box, where the patient would put both of his arms inside the box and watch at the reflection, the VR environment creates an artificial limb in its user’s mind. This method was proven to be very successful after the trials that were performed for 30 minutes every two weeks. Exposure to this VR environment reduces the pain caused by the phantom limb effect.

Using VR to create prosthetics

Next to treating phantom limb pain, virtual reality is also useful when creating prosthetic arms, legs, and other body parts. The environment, while simulating the lost limb, also takes precise measurements that are later very useful when constructing artificial prosthetics.

Using VR in children treatment

Another example of virtual reality use in healthcare is when treating children. Kids are often too young to understand the need for a doctor, and they might be scared or in a state of panic.

A happy kid using VR at doctors office - VR in healthcare.
Using virtual reality to calm children during a doctor’s exam or when taking therapy has shown a tremendous amount of progress.

Since virtual reality is exciting and fun, it is a great way to keep kids occupied and relaxed. For example, by creating a nice and calm environment that looks familiar to a kid, you are removing the feel of being in a hospital or at the doctor’s office. The kid feels happy and relaxed, and the stress is reduced, if not entirely removed. This kind of environment is perfect to keep a kid calm during examinations, or when they are taking an injection, for example.

Virtual reality has a bright future in healthcare

With everything that has been said so far, we can safely conclude that virtual reality has a bright future in the field of medicine. There are many reasons why VR is perfect for on-the-job training, especially in healthcare.

Some of the future projects may include environments for designing new medicine, or even experimental procedures that otherwise could not be taken due to the safety issues. Virtual reality is transforming healthcare more and more, and with the speed of progress it happens, the development of healthcare reaches new heights every year!