Virtual Reality has moved out of the scruffy teenage rooms and into corporate life - especially changing the face of health care as we know it. Here are 3...
Virtual Reality (VR) technology nowadays is cheaper and more accessible than ever – to get a glimpse all you need is a smartphone and a piece of cardboard. This sudden accessibility brings VR to previously unexpected places such as creating fine art, prototyping cars, training factory workers and military personnel. But can it help with our digital health?
The business model for VR speaks for itself. With the value of the Virtual Reality healthcare market rising from 525 million USD in 2012 to staggering 976 million USD in 2017, possibilities within the field grows with exponential power, giving us ways to use the technology in many aspects of healthcare and surrounding services. Below, we have gathered some of our absolute favorites.
From Operation to operating
We’ve come a long way from trying to remove Cavity Sam’s Funny Bone during a board game night, to full-on surgical training at several universities operating virtual patients in virtual rooms.
Companies like Osso VR offer accurate, realistic and fully immersive training solutions to undergraduate surgeons and hospital staff. Their product is focused on solving training gaps for orthopaedic and spine therapies using hand-based interactions containing the latest, cutting-edge procedures and technology.
The advantages of the technology are that it is low cost – ultimately replayable – but also that there are no human casualties if an accident should occur. Research has proved that VR trained surgeons were 29% faster during a gallbladder dissection, just as they proved to be more capable of performing very complex procedures such as a laparoscopic surgery compared to non-VR trained surgeons.
Getting back on your feet
Rehabilitation can be improved greatly by incorporating VR (and AR) technologies into the process. But why bother with adding VR to already effective rehabilitation methods? According to Keshner, professor at College of Public Health, Temple University, the main advantage of VR is that it “offers us the opportunity to bring the complexity of the physical world into the controlled environment of the laboratory”, meaning that we all of a sudden have a higher level of success when we deal with a wide range of sensitive matters within healthcare – one of them being rehabilitation.
On one side VR rehabilitation mimics reality by presenting daily real-life-challenges to the patients. SaeboVR is focusing on ADLs – activities of daily living- by getting patients to complete a (virtual) shopping run in the supermarket, and upon returning home putting away their groceries into their fridge and cupboards. In some cases, the staff can supervise two patients at a time, as the machines take some of the workloads off the therapists. This gives the doctors an idea of the existing level (and progress) of the patients, but it also trains the patients along the way – a win-win situation for all!
On the other end of the spectrum, VR can also make rehabilitation fun. Cleveland Clinic has been working with Parkinson’s disease patients on a VR treadmill, adding gamification elements and dynamic environments to the therapy sessions. These additions are extremely helpful in neuro-rehabilitation where you need to challenge patients to get better.
These games are more intuitive, fun and engaging to the users rather than traditional therapies. Additionally, a lot of people are experiencing pain throughout rehabilitation, but adding the immersive experience of VR to the process, this can lower the feeling of pain – or even help the patients ignoring the physical pain altogether.
Keeping it local
Finally, let us not forget our mental health as well. Several companies in Denmark have been operating in this industry. One of these, Timestory, is working with VR exposure therapy for people with social anxiety – people who often experiences extreme levels of stress and unease in various social situations. With the help of VR, the patient is placed in a 360 degree video (recorded in a supermarket) in which he or she has to confront and speak to a character. The level of stress can be increased and the users’ pulse is measured throughout the experience. This lets the patient explore and overcome boundaries in a safe, controlled environment giving him/her the experience of success one might need before entering the real world.
On the other hand, GonioVR is focusing on physiotherapeutic rehabilitation by introducing simple games that are tailored to the user’s pain levels and needs. During each session, the range of motion (the full movement potential of a joint) is measured and progress being recorded, accessible both to the patient as well as the therapist.
Feel inspired or need help?
As one of the leading innovations companies in Denmark, we are used to exploring a broad range of aspects within VR technology – from our department Human Data by Innovation Lab taking a deep dive into the emotional and academic aspects of the technology, to our product developers from Hacks connecting research with actual business, building experiences with the technology. If you – like us – are curious about the area, please reach out. Our experts are more than happy to share knowledge – and learn from you as well.
Also, if you are interested in other ways in which VR can improve a certain industry, you might want to have a look at my colleague Jarle’s blog post about VR in regards to music and experiences here (in Danish).