VR in Healthcare and Medicine

The application of VR in healthcare is phenomenal. VR’s educational value extends to educating patients in the medical setting. Many people have a natural tendency to be scared to get to a hospital and get the necessary treatment. VR helps create an environment where patients can experience what it feels like to be inside a hospital before undergoing treatment.

To better understand the idea and importance of VR in healthcare, we need to understand the use of stimulation prevalent in healthcare since the 1980s. Gaba, Fish and Howard took NASA’s stimulations as an inspiration and developed a system to help train personnel on giving anaesthesia. The factor of human error was taken into consideration. Over time, different systems began to develop which took the idea of stimulation forward, thanks to technological innovation.

The greatest amount of work to date in  VR education has come to be in the area of medical procedures. Virtual reality simulators have been developed for abdominal trauma surgery,  neurosurgery, endoscopic sinus surgery, temporal bone dissection, arthroscopic surgery of the knee and shoulder.

In general, minimally invasive surgeries are easier to simulate due to limited visual and haptic feedback. The surgical field is viewed on a screen, away from the patient, and the haptic feedback is transmitted through the surgical instruments. Several of these simulators

have multiple interactive modules, including educational,  practice, and testing.

Several non-operating room invasive procedures also have been simulated using VR technology. Again, most of these use haptic as well as visual feedback, and the more advanced programs have multiple modules for education, practice, and testing. There are a few noteworthy systems that have made a positive impact in healthcare.

One system, called the Anatomic VisualizeR, is being developed at the University of California,  San Diego. This program contains several 3-D anatomic models with which a student is able to virtually dissect while simultaneously accessing other supporting 2-D resources, such as diagrams, text, and videos.  The program also allows the user to reveal the adjacent and deeper structures by adjusting the size, opacity, and orientation of the various organs. This function of the program provides the user with an extremely effective method for learning the anatomic relations of organs. Another virtual anatomy program ‘‘3D Human Atlas’’ has been developed in Japan, which facilitates the understanding of anatomic cross-sections and its relation to the anatomy of the human body.

The military has also been interested in using VR for training its medical personnel in battlefield trauma management.  A military group in Germany has produced a desktop VR program that facilitates the training of medics in casualty triage, resuscitation, and evacuation. In this system, 30 different injuries can be simulated, multiple interventions can be performed, and the condition and vital signs of the patients are dynamic and respond appropriately to the specific  injuries and interventions.

Another example is AccuVein- a scanner that projects over skin showing nurses and doctors where various veins and valves are in a patient’s body. This technology has reportedly made finding a vein on the first attempt 3.5x more likely.

The applications for VR in healthcare are practically endless, ranging from VR-powered telemedicine to “transportive” elder care. While nursing home residents enjoy travel-by-goggles, companies like Psious are also offering treatment for behavioural and mental health issues through virtual reality immersion therapy. VR can also provide the first-hand experience for doctors to communicate effectively with their patients. Newer doctors also benefit immensely from VR as they can understand the behaviour of their patients and in return have empathy for them.

VR could be part of the future of clinical psychology, it is critical to all psychotherapists that it be defined broadly. To ensure appropriate development of VR applications, clinicians must have a clear understanding of the opportunities and challenges it will provide in professional practice

VR  represents a promising area with a high potential to enhance the training of health-care professionals. Virtual Reality Training can provide an interactive, rich, engaging educational context, thus supporting experiential learning-by-doing. It can, in fact, contribute to raise interest in trainees to effectively support skills, acquisition and transfer. Other interesting applications like the development of immersive 3D environments used for training psychiatrists and psychologists in the treatment of mental disorders.

Nupur JainComment