A VR Inspired Medical World

23-Dec-2016

Before going in depth about how VR could change the medical world, do these words often confuse you? VR, short for “virtual reality”, is an artificial environment that seems realistic with the assistance and use of software and electronic devices, and is mostly used in gaming. AR, stands for “augmented reality”, is creating artificial information on top of the existing environment. MR, last but not least, stands for “mixed reality”, and is still currently in the development phase.

Back in May, an article about how VR could possibly change the world was posted on our website. This time, however, we are focusing on two particular fields that could be influenced greatly by VR—the medical & senior healthcare industries.

Practice Makes Perfect
While VR has been mostly used in gaming, the medical industry is starting to pick up its practicality, too. The most popular usage is perhaps in “virtual robotic surgery”, where a robot is operating but it’s remotely controlled by a surgeon. Although this practice allows surgeons to perform surgeries on patients that are at a different location and lowers the dangers and complications from transferring patients, there’s still a risk of time delay when actually operating. During the operation, timing can often be extremely critical. Nonetheless, VR at this point cannot completely eliminate the possibility of lags. Weak signal or any type of malfunction could jeopardize the entire surgery. A better alternative will be to use VR to play out possible surgical risks. Similar to a flight simulator, through a series of true-to-life practices, surgeons learn to minimize those risks.

Recovery Made Easier than Ever
VR is also put into practice to treat patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. Recreating war scenarios can better help veterans or ex-veterans to overcome what happened to them. This same type of treatment pattern could also be used on patients with phobias. VR would be able to create a scenario repeatedly, and the patients can practice how to overcome their fear without actually being in danger.

This method could be applied to physiotherapy as well. For patients recovering from physical disability, VR could provide a more encouraging environment for exercises with different levels of rehabilitation.

Our designers at CRE8 DESIGN believe that there may be potential of making hospital rooms more pleasant and patient-friendly places with the help of VR. Patients who have been long-confined in beds often long to be more connected to the outside world, or to be at places they cannot at the moment. VR could create mountain views, beach views, or even familiar surroundings to make the patients happier and feel more at home.

Un-crowd the Learning Experience
VR will also become an assistant in medical education. While every medical student hopes to get a better look at how their instructors do a simple tracheal intubation or carefully clip the aneurysm, there isn’t enough room in the crowded OR for everyone sometimes. VR allows all students to have a realistic three-dimensional experience of the entire surgery without getting in others’ way, or vice versa.

VR also allows medical students to practice different surgical techniques over and over again, which they only used to have the chance to practice on corpses. The number of times a medical student can practice on the same body part of a corpse is quite limited, but with VR, students can repeatedly practice until they think it’s perfect.

Aside from medical students learning, VR could also be beneficial for surgeons when exchanging and sharing medical information. Some highly-advanced surgical techniques and skills are difficult to recreate and tutor over phone calls or seminars, yet, VR’s three dimensional tutorial could reduce the misunderstandings made through conventional communication. Ideas and concepts could be communicated more easily, and better solutions or suggestions could be made as well.

So Far Away yet So Close
Elders often long for the company of their children, especially when they don’t live anywhere close to be able to pay weekly visits. When video calls are not satisfying enough, VR can help elders feel close to their children even if they live half way across the world. VR calls can project images of people, and the projections are in real life sizes, making it possible for people to be in the same room with someone who is physically far away.

Nonetheless, there are always times that VR calls are not feasible, too. In that case, VR albums could help to relive particular moments. Unlike conventional albums that only show a still moment on a piece of plastic paper, VR albums would be able to replay moments from the past.

For elders who have limited accessibility and can only stay in the same room or the same facility every day, VR creates possibilities for them to explore the outside world, preventing them from the feeling of isolation and depression.

Technology has brought the world closer in ways people never could have thought of before, however, sadly, it has also widened the gap amongst people at the same time. Excessively indulging in the virtual world will make it easy for people neglect what is actually going on in the ‘real’ one. Virtual Reality can be a great tool to improve and overcome physical difficulties, but people should be aware of how they use it.