(This is part two of a four-part series on how XR is revolutionizing healthcare. You can click here to read part one of the series)
XR is Changing the Future
The range of healthcare problems in which Extended Reality (XR) can provide a viable solution is widening rapidly. Taken together, these XR applications are increasing access to healthcare and improving outcomes.
The use of XR in healthcare settings is becoming mainstream and is being driven by the major players of the healthcare industry. Just as two examples, in 2018 the Mayo Clinic signed a three-year partnership with FundamentalVR to develop surgery simulators,[i] and in early 2019 Medtronic announced that every division in their company is exploring XR solutions.[ii] The following is a brief overview of some of the most exciting ways XR is being used for healthcare today.
Since VR can create controlled exposure to any stimuli a programmer can imagine, VR has proven effective for a variety of psychiatric treatments such as overcoming phobias, depression, or promoting physical activity, prosocial behavior, and relaxation.[iii]
Researchers are just starting to recognize how powerful the stimulation of VR can be and are working to test the limits. As an example, in the fields of rehab and physical therapy VR supported treatment has led to quicker improvements in arm mobility for those recovering from strokes.[iv]
“Virtual reality improves tolerance of anesthesia procedures and reduces need for intravenous sedation by at least 50%.”
Virtual experiences could be a viable substitution for pharmaceuticals. A recent study presented at the 2019 European Society of Anesthesiology found that “Virtual reality improves tolerance of anesthesia procedures and reduces need for intravenous sedation by at least 50%.”[v] Virtual experiences proven to reduce the need for pain medication could play a major role in ending the opioid crisis and would reshape the pharmaceutical industry in the process.
VR has also provided meaningful experiences to the homebound and severely disabled. Children unable to get out of bed have been able to explore outer space with VR headsets and many folks in elderly care facilitates have embraced the VR headsets for rehabilitation, education, and leisure.[vi][vii] Doctors argue that VR experiences can be so powerful that they must be considered effective forms of palliative care.[viii]
Advances in voice technology and telecommunication capabilities have effectively extended realities by dissolving the barriers of distance. Patients in rural locations can receive care from specialists around the world via robotic telemedicine carts. This reduces travel burdens for patients and providers. As another example, Google Glass has allowed scribes to work in a comfortable office on the other side of the world and just watch and listen via the Google Glass video feed, rather than following a doctor into crowded exam rooms.
Computer simulation software has also expanded who can contribute to curing diseases. The Fold.it project out of the University of Washington created a gamified virtual environment for folding proteins, so people around the world can contribute to curing diseases.[ix]
How We’re Using XR
At Worrell, we have used XR to extend our access to research participants. By programming an Amazon Echo Dot to conduct empathetic interviews and goal setting activities with research participants in their own homes, we improved participant compliance during a complicated study.
Our other projects include saving clinical specialists from driving hundreds of miles a day by creating virtual support platforms, reducing the time and resources required for product development by conducting virtual human factors testing, and much more.
XR technologies extend the reach of providers and expand the number of resources available to patients. We believe these advances are making the world a better place, and we are excited to be a leader of this movement. If you think XR could help your organization meet a business need in the healthcare space, we would love to hear about it and see how we could help. Click the link below to get in touch with us.
[i] Bonasio, A. (2018). FundamentalVR Partners With Mayo Clinic to Develop Haptic VR Surgery Simulations. Retrieved from: https://vrscout.com/news/mayo-clinic-fundamentalvr/
[ii] Medtronic. (2019). Harnessing Extended Reality To Revolutionize Healthcare. Retrieved from: https://www.medtronic.com/us-en/about/news/extended-reality.html
[iii] Mazurek, et al. (2019). Virtual Reality In Medicine: A Brief Overview And Future Research Directions. Retrieved from: https://www.termedia.pl/Virtual-reality-in-medicine-a-brief-overview-and-future-research-directions,129,36036,0,1.html
[v] ESA. (2019). Virtual Reality Improves Tolerance of Anaesthesia Procedures. Retrieved from: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-06/eso-vri052919.php
[vi] Institute for Human Caring. (2019) Child of Earth. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlWNzYE5vXs&feature=youtu.be
[vii] Mazurek, et al. (2019). Virtual Reality In Medicine: A Brief Overview And Future Research Directions. Retrieved from: https://www.termedia.pl/Virtual-reality-in-medicine-a-brief-overview-and-future-research-directions,129,36036,0,1.html
[viii] Institute for Human Caring. (2019) Child of Earth. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlWNzYE5vXs&feature=youtu.be
[ix] Foldit. (2019). The Science Behind Foldit. Retrieved from: https://fold.it/portal/info/about