Just sometime ago, the concept of virtual reality was limited to incorporating it only within the gaming industry and the mere thought of using it for medical purposes seemed like a futuristic dream. But today, these advanced tools are being used in clinics and hospitals across the world as a mode of visualization. The scope of using virtual reality has no limits, from teaching & training new medical professionals to helping physicians scrutinize their diagnosis more closely, the list is never ending.
Let's look at some of the top uses:
There has been tremendous technological advancements in the medical field. But training the existing and prospective healthcare professionals is still done by the books in the same old fashioned way ie using books, exams, tests. Even the practical experience is gained in specialized centers that need constant supervision, maintenance and not to forget artificial body parts. Virtual Reality helps in making this environment much more controlled and can easily stimulate practice session using high quality graphics and sounds. It is the best way to recreate real life scenarios without actually risking a patient's life and allows professionals to make mistakes, learn from them and explore new techniques that is normally difficult to do.
2. Pain Management
Virtual Reality shouldn't just be seen as a way to distract patients when they are experiencing acute pain, because numerous studies have shown that the pain can be diminished in real time by reliving pain from the signals that are sent to the brain. Melzack and Wall proposed the Gate Control Theory , which suggests that factors such as the level of attention paid to the pain, the emotion associated with the pain and past experience of the pain all play a role in how the pain will be interpreted. They also state that human mind has a short attention span and if distracted appropriately the feeling of pain will be less intense.
3. Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation.
A few years back Microsoft Kinect was launched with motion sensors that had gesture recognition and motion tracking capabilities that could generate and collect real time data of a person for a certain period of time. Virtual Reality takes a step further by making the experience much more immersive and fun so that patients unknowingly perform exercises. Disguised skillfully as game or a creative activity and with added goals to complete the game it instructs patients to move their arms, shoulders and legs to facilitate full range of body movements. Doctors and physicians can later use the data generated to analyze the improvement and also change certain parameters that benefits their patients.
4. Phobia Treatment.
Physicians and psychologists around the world for some time now have advocated for exposure therapy ie forcing patients to face their worst fears. Virtual Reality combined with cognitive behavior works as an aid to help people overcome their fears. It can create a stimulated environment in real world and helps to overcome certain fears like fear of spiders, height, water etc in a safe and controlled environment.
5. Stress Relief.
A general wellness use case is to create immersive, relaxing environments to promote meditation and reduce stress. Various breathing mechanisms can be deployed along with a voice-over instructions and scenic views to help relax a person's mind.