How VR Is Changing Healthcare

How Virtual Reality Is Changing Healthcare

The healthcare industry has used virtual images since the 1990s to help medical staff and patients. Modern medicine is increasingly using virtual reality to support training and patient care. As a result, virtual reality is enabling healthcare professionals to provide better care and patient experience:

Screenshot of HTC and TMU’s VR anatomy course (HTC image)


Medical Training

One of the most well-known uses of VR in healthcare is as a training tool. There are many ways that VR tools can help in medical education:

Anatomy Modelling

Virtual reality enables users to view inside the body with detailed 3D models of anatomy. This means they can examine areas that would be impossible to view in place otherwise. These can help instructors show how part of the body’s functions is affected by various conditions. Unlike a cadaver, a VR model can respond to the user’s actions like a live patient’s body would.

Procedure Practice

While medical students can learn anatomy and practice procedures using donated cadavers, the availability of these limits opportunities for practice and practical education. Using VR to practice these procedures can let medical professionals practice and refresh their skills more frequently. For example, OneBonsai recently created a VR training module for Oost-Limburg Hospital to help teach correct tracheostomy procedures.

VR is also useful for learning rare procedures, or planning a unique treatment created for a specific case. For example, the Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis used virtual reality models to assist in separating conjoined twins. The hospital created a detailed VR model of the complex anatomy of the twins to plan their surgery and avoid potential pitfalls.

Patient Experience

Care providers use virtual reality for much more than only training. It can also provide a better patient experience when educating people about their condition or a procedure. For example, VR models of their anatomy can help patients understand their care and current health situation. A 2018 study used virtual reality to educate patients about their health conditions. It found that 89% of participants felt more informed about their health. 84% felt more engaged with their treatment.



Robotic Surgery

Hospitals are increasingly using robot-assisted surgery tools. These can perform precise surgeries with fewer incisions and less risk of complications. A human surgeon controls the robot using augmented reality to view the area. This helps them carry out more accurate and precise surgery. In addition, robot-assisted surgery techniques can enable patients to recover faster because of the increased precision.

Mental Health and Psychological Therapies

Virtual reality experiences can also support patients receiving treatment for their mental health. For example, VR can create immersive scenarios in which challenges occur for a patient. Patients can experience these as often as they need. Therapists can adjust the simulation to different difficulty levels. As a result, patients can build confidence by starting with a less challenging scenario. 

For example, therapists can help patients overcome anxiety in crowded places by providing a fully controlled virtual environment. A VR experience could let patients experience a busy public place and practice management techniques.

Non-profit research and treatment center UCF RESTORES uses virtual reality as an integral part of their exposure therapy treatment. The center helps veterans recover from their PTSD by guiding them through a traumatic memory. 66% of the participants in their research into combat-related trauma treatment experienced a significant reduction of PTSD symptoms after three weeks of treatment.



Physical Therapy

Virtual reality can aid in physical therapy as well as psychological therapy. For example, a study by the University of Washington Seattle showed that an immersive VR game helped distract burn patients from pain during physical therapy after a skin graft. In preliminary studies, patients reported between 35% and 50% less pain while in the virtual reality game.

VR in physical therapy has also been effective at speeding up patient recovery times. Physical therapy can be exhausting, draining, and often painful for patients. This can make it hard for patients to stay motivated and stick with their exercises during a long recovery period. Making the exercises more fun, engaging, and immersive can help patients stay focused and keep their spirits up during physical therapy.

Disease Awareness

Virtual reality can also help understand the challenges that patients with certain conditions face in their daily lives. This aids healthcare professionals in providing care that better supports their patients’ needs. It can also help educate caregivers who may not have a healthcare background, such as family members who care for a patient at home.

For example, pharmaceutical research & development company AbbVie created a VR experience to help convey the daily challenges of patients who have Parkinson’s disease. The simulation gave healthcare professionals a first-hand understanding by seeing through the eyes of someone with Parkinson’s as they shop at a supermarket. Virtual reality offers a vast range of potential uses within the healthcare industry. Many companies are already using it to provide better care to their patients.




Get in touch with us today to learn more about how your healthcare organization can use custom-tailored virtual reality experiences,