Applications of VR & AR in the Medical Industry for Clinicians
Virtual reality (VR) technology will soon impact all aspects of the medical industry for patients and clinicians alike. For clinicians, it enables greater confidence in training, rehearsal, and operations, which ultimately improves patient outcomes. With virtual and augmented reality (AR) breaking through to the mainstream consumer market, the technology is more available and less expensive than ever for hospitals and clinics. Now is the time when innovators in medicine are taking the technology and its applications to the next level, in training and empathy.
Virtual Reality Will Change Surgery Forever
VR allows surgeons to dive in, hear and see exactly what they’ll see during a live procedure. With the right hardware add-ons to add a sense of touch, VR will revolutionize how doctors and surgeons are trained. Nothing will improve patient outcomes like having a larger amount of more competent doctors at their disposal.
Virtual reality can be used to more clearly simulate getting up close with patients and understanding the different parts of anatomy, as well as presenting steps of a procedure in an intuitive way. There are even motion controllers to guide your hands. However, what takes this training from an interactive video to true “hands-on” time is the introduction of haptic feedback. ImmersiveTouch has created devices that simulate just about any surgical tool, and as it’s manipulated by the surgeon-in-training, it applies different amounts of pressure and force-feedback depending on the shape, texture, and surface of what’s being interacted with. Taut skin, soft organ tissue, solid bone, and everything in between all react appropriately, giving residents and students a complete tactile, audio, and visual experience of performing a procedure.
ImmersiveTouch operation training was found to have reduced student errors by 53.4% when compared with simply hearing a lecture prior to performing a procedure.
Surgical Planning & Practice
There’s no reason why a current practicing surgeon couldn’t benefit from VR as well. Using the same medical training simulations and tailoring them to the patients they plan to see in their schedule, a surgeon can perform as many practice runs as they like to familiarize themselves with the movements and unique aspects of their patients’ anatomy. They can also recognize potential complications far in advance and plan surgeries around that, all improving clinical outcomes.
It’s not all under the knife. Doctors do their best to understand a patient’s situation, and are trained in proper bedside manner. But they usually don’t suffer from the same conditions as their patients, and can still come off as overly clinical, especially for patients with physical or mental impairments. Doctors can use VR simulations to understand what it’s like to live with different sorts of fears, distresses, and even mental disorders. Look at this simple 360 video simulating the experience of a child on the spectrum waiting in public with their mom:
Another possibility being unlocked by VR is effective and safe telesurgery. A world-class surgeon can “visit” a remote clinic and guide a local doctor through a complex procedure. The local doctor would wear a camera, and the trained surgeon would view the procedure through VR goggles. It’s the next best thing to hands-on, and worlds better than a phone call.
Training doesn’t just go for practitioners. Both patients and their families can use VR to understand the procedures, benefits, and risks being undertaken with surgical recommendations. A surgeon can walk them through an operation and gain far more informed consent, as well as reducing their fears of the unknown that often occur with a simple explanation.
The Future is Bright
The course of technology has always driven developments in the medical field, and virtual reality is no different. Mass market consumer-grade VR has taken off, so the technology is here, it’s effective, and it’s affordable. In the medical realms of training and understanding the patient experience, the application of VR will only expand, improving the lives of patients and doctors as it does.