The Top 8 Ways Virtual Reality in Healthcare is Transforming Medicine
Virtual reality in healthcare is quickly reshaping the way providers deliver care. The advancement of virtual reality technology has enabled healthcare providers to expand treatment options and deliver innovative solutions to patient care.
VR has already had an incredible impact on healthcare—it is being used to facilitate remote consultations with patients, provide immersive training and education opportunities, and offer valuable therapeutic experiences tailored to meet each patient’s needs. The benefits of virtual reality in healthcare are numerous—for patients, providers, and the healthcare industry as a whole.
Here are the eight big ways that virtual reality is transforming medicine today.
1. More Effective Mental Health Care
Virtual reality now enables therapists to create scenarios that used to be difficult or impossible to recreate in the real world.
This can include exposing a patient to several turbulent flights within the course of one therapy session. Or practicing anxiety management in a virtual shopping center, complete with a realistic crowd of visitors.
And while VR in mental health has its roots in exposure therapy, it has now been extended to a wide range of other applications. Therapists use VR for psychoeducation, relaxation, addictions treatment, mindfulness interventions, social skills training, and so much more.
VR offers tailored experiences that can challenge, support, and engage patients in ways that traditional therapy just cannot.
2. Potent Pain Management
From acute to chronic pain, VR is helping patients find relief. Several studies have found that when applied during acute pain episodes in clinical settings, VR can reduce pain and anxiety during the events.(1)
Brain scans show that when VR therapy is administered during painful experiences, the brain regions associated with pain show drops in activity.(2)
Other studies have found that the use of VR was associated with quality of life improvement and pain reduction for terminally ill patients.(3)
These results could have a huge impact on how pain management is approached in healthcare moving forward.
3. Boosting Patient Education
Medical information can be complex and difficult to understand. Virtual reality provides opportunities for healthcare providers to educate patients more effectively.
With VR, medical information can be presented in an interactive and user-friendly way that helps patients better understand their bodies, various conditions, and potential treatments.
VR is also used to simulate medical procedures and show patients what they can expect before they undergo surgery or other treatments. This can help patients feel more informed and empowered about their care.
4. Improving Patient Satisfaction
Not only is VR an effective way to educate patients on medical information, but it is also effective at boosting patient satisfaction.
Studies show that patients enjoy virtual reality, feel more informed about their health, and feel more engaged in their healthcare after using VR.(4)
VR education can also improve satisfaction and communication with healthcare professionals, and encourage treatment compliance in patients that have to undergo medical procedures.(5)
5. Addiction Treatment
Substance use disorder is a serious and challenging condition to manage. Virtual reality is opening new doors for substance use disorder and addiction clinicians to help clients work toward long-term recovery.
VR is helping to improve the assessment and treatment of these disorders, such as assessing cue reactivity. Because of its ability to simulate drug-related cues and scenarios, VR is an ecologically valid way to assess craving.(6)
Studies have shown that VR is effective in triggering cravings in both substance use disorder and behavioral addiction. And research demonstrates that virtual exposure therapy is effective at reducing cravings in nicotine and gambling disorders.(6)
Through repeated, yet controlled virtual exposures, patients can practice and reinforce their responses to high-risk situations—allowing them to better manage cravings and triggers.
6. Enhancing Medical Training
VR is changing medical training in profound ways. Many different kinds of medical situations can be difficult to simulate in the real world.
But now, medical teams can observe and critique trainees in a simulated environment, allowing them to practice their skills without the risk or expense of real-life scenarios.
Many schools are already utilizing virtual reality for medical students to train in a safe environment.
These educational opportunities include:
– Examining the anatomy of the human body
– Seeing what occurs during different physiological processes
– Surgical training, motor skills, and post-surgical management
– Practicing different scenarios such as resuscitation, or responding to anaphylactic reactions(7)
Furthermore, VR training has the potential to reduce errors and improve performance when learning surgical skills. For example, one study found that medical students who received VR training were significantly more accurate when assessed, compared to students who received the traditional training.(8)
7. Expanding Telehealth
Telemedicine has been around for many years, but virtual reality has expanded the capabilities of telemedicine to a new level. For many providers, VR serves as a communication interface and a way to deliver personalized interventions in a remote setting.
There are many reasons why patients may be unable to visit a clinic, such as distance or disability. VR technology provides patients with the opportunity to access healthcare from the comfort of their own homes.
Research has shown that telerehabilitation systems can facilitate patient motivation and participation in their rehabilitation process.(9)
Virtual reality has also enhanced remote mental health interventions, allowing therapists to offer a more engaging experience for their patients and giving therapists a better way to assign and track therapeutic tasks between sessions.
8. Reducing Healthcare Costs
VR technology is driving down healthcare costs by providing a more cost-effective way to deliver medical care and training.
For example, VR can reduce costs related to travel and other expenses associated with traditional training methods. One study compared the cost impact of VR evacuation training and live evacuation training. The results showed that the initial costs for VR were higher than the live training, but within 3 years, the cost per participant for the VR training was much lower than the cost per patient for the live drill. The live exercises maintain a fixed cost, but after the initial costs of VR, the use of VR becomes less expensive.(10)
Another study conducted an analysis to examine how implementing a VR therapy program could impact costs for a hospital system. They found that implementing the VR therapy program to provide inpatient pain management provided $5.39 per patient in cost savings compared to usual care. (11)
Virtual Reality in Healthcare: An Easy-To-Use & Accessible Tool For Clinicians
Virtual reality is proving to be a powerful tool in healthcare. VR can provide more engaging telehealth experiences, reduce errors in medical training, and increase patient engagement and satisfaction.
With its ability to recreate lifelike environments and simulations, virtual reality offers unique opportunities for healthcare providers, patients, and medical students alike. From in-person patient education to remote mental health interventions, virtual reality is reshaping how we deliver healthcare.
Amelia Virtual Care is the leading virtual reality solution developed to help behavioral healthcare providers support the mental health needs of their patients. With Amelia, you can help your patients engage in meaningful and effective treatment whether in-person or remotely.
Are you interested in integrating virtual reality into your clinic or practice? Contact us today to learn more.
- Smith, V., Warty, R. R., Sursas, J. A., Payne, O., Nair, A., Krishnan, S., da Silva Costa, F., Wallace, E. M., & Vollenhoven, B. (2020). The Effectiveness of Virtual Reality in Managing Acute Pain and Anxiety for Medical Inpatients: Systematic Review. Journal of medical Internet research, 22(11), e17980. https://doi.org/10.2196/17980
- Hoffman, H. G., Richards, T. L., Bills, A. R., Van Oostrom, T., Magula, J., Seibel, E. J., & Sharar, S. R. (2006). Using FMRI to study the neural correlates of virtual reality analgesia. CNS spectrums, 11(1), 45–51. https://doi.org/10.1017/s1092852900024202
- Guenther, M., Görlich, D., Bernhardt, F. et al. Virtual reality reduces pain in palliative care–A feasibility trial. BMC Palliat Care 21, 169 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12904-022-01058-4
- Pandrangi, V. C., Gaston, B., Appelbaum, N. P., Albuquerque, F. C., Jr, Levy, M. M., & Larson, R. A. (2019). The Application of Virtual Reality in Patient Education. Annals of vascular surgery, 59, 184–189. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avsg.2019.01.015
- Van der Linde-van den Bor, M., Slond, F., Liesdek, O. C. D., Suyker, W. J., & Weldam, S. W. M. (2022). The use of virtual reality in patient education related to medical somatic treatment: A scoping review. Patient education and counseling, 105(7), 1828–1841. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2021.12.015
- Segawa, T., Baudry, T., Bourla, A., Blanc, J. V., Peretti, C. S., Mouchabac, S., & Ferreri, F. (2020). Virtual Reality (VR) in Assessment and Treatment of Addictive Disorders: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in neuroscience, 13, 1409. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2019.01409
- Horowitz, Brian. (2022). Augmented and Virtual Reality Provide Critical Practice During Healthcare Training. Health Tech Magazine. https://healthtechmagazine.net/article/2022/12/ar-vr-medical-training-2023-perfcon
- Blumstein, G., Zukotynski, B., Cevallos, N., Ishmael, C., Zoller, S., Burke, Z., Clarkson, S., Park, H., Bernthal, N., & SooHoo, N. F. (2020). Randomized Trial of a Virtual Reality Tool to Teach Surgical Technique for Tibial Shaft Fracture Intramedullary Nailing. Journal of surgical education, 77(4), 969–977. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsurg.2020.01.002
- Matamala-Gomez, M., Bottiroli, S., Realdon, O., Riva, G., Galvagni, L., Platz, T., Sandrini, G., De Icco, R., & Tassorelli, C. (2021). Telemedicine and Virtual Reality at Time of COVID-19 Pandemic: An Overview for Future Perspectives in Neurorehabilitation. Frontiers in neurology, 12, 646902. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2021.646902
- Farra, S. L., Gneuhs, M., Hodgson, E., Kawosa, B., Miller, E. T., Simon, A., Timm, N., & Hausfeld, J. (2019). Comparative Cost of Virtual Reality Training and Live Exercises for Training Hospital Workers for Evacuation. Computers, informatics, nursing : CIN, 37(9), 446–454. https://doi.org/10.1097/CIN.0000000000000540
- Delshad, S. D., Almario, C. V., Fuller, G., Luong, D., & Spiegel, B. M. R. (2018). Economic analysis of implementing virtual reality therapy for pain among hospitalized patients. NPJ digital medicine, 1, 22. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41746-018-0026-4