Virtual reality (VR) is no longer a tool used only in the gaming world or entertainment sector. It’s an innovative tool with the capacity to mitigate safety risks and save lives, especially in the healthcare industry.
Here’s how the healthcare sector is benefiting from using VR training, for healthcare professionals and their patients alike.
Reduces Patients’ and Healthcare Professionals’ Risk
One of the greatest benefits of VR training in the healthcare sector is its ability to give healthcare professionals the training they need without putting anyone’s life in jeopardy. For instance, surgeons can use VR training to gain experience for how to complete a complicated surgery without putting a live patient at risk. And emergency technicians can learn how to properly perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) without executing chest compressions on a real person who is having trouble breathing. Healthcare professionals can also receive other valuable training via VR, such as learning about human anatomy and infectious disease control.
Enhances Opportunities for Preventative Medicine and Patient Education
Healthcare professionals can learn about preventive medicine and its effects, such as cigarette smoking cessation, appropriate levels of alcohol intake, and the effects of exercise and a healthy diet. This is important for them to learn, because then they can experience what it would be like for one of their patients to quit smoking, even if they don’t smoke themselves. VR is a great tool for healthcare professionals to use to learn about ways they can discuss and educate their patients about preventive medicine.
Offers Better Pain Management
If healthcare professionals learn to use VR for a variety of purposes, they can help relieve their patients’ pain in a lot of scenarios. The somatosensory cortex and the insula (the areas of the brain that are connected to feeling pain) are less active when a patient is immersed in a VR scenario.1 In some instances, it can even help patients endure medical procedures that are usually very painful. It’s also known to help patients who are suffering from “phantom limb pain,” where patients who have recently lost an arm or a leg believe they’re experiencing pain although their limb is no longer there.
Promotes Physical Rehabilitation and Cognitive Functioning
VR training offers a great way for healthcare professionals to help their patients exercise and move their bodies in ways that may be difficult in physical therapy. In simulated environments, patients end up walking faster or doing things more easily because they don’t realize they’re doing it. Additionally, VR training can help patients with brain damage complete everyday tasks, such as shopping, with ease, while they’re recovering from surgery or the effects of a bad accident.
Overall, VR training will help healthcare professionals get the hands-on training they need, while offering them opportunities to directly help their patients in a variety of ways.
1U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Virtual Reality and Pain Management: Current Trends and Future Directions.” Accessed 12/13/2017.