A 23yr old young and vibrant engineer living in a southern state of India was under constant stress when he underwent a surgery to get a cancerous growth scooped out of his left hip. The prognosis of the surgical procedure was good and doctors predicted a full recovery within 6 months. But little did he know that the next step towards complete recovery is regular physiotherapy sessions that he has to undergo, which in itself is a painful ordeal. But he was delighted to meet doctor ‘Virtual Reality’ (VR), the latest buzzword in healthcare technology which not only alleviated the pain during his exercises but made the entire session for him much enjoyable.  He strapped a VR headset and would watch videos comprising of calm and serene landscaped and locales around the world. This immersive experience took his mind away from the pain that he suffered during the leg movement as a part of his daily regime. Pain levels dropped to 30% due to this VR treatment and he is on track of a full recovery within 4 months instead of the speculated 6 month time.

The Market

Medical practitioners, hospitals and pharma manufacturers are increasingly employing the services of VR and AR (augmented reality) to improve delivery of care, increase patient satisfaction, and reduce recovery time, marketing and spreading medical awareness. This has encouraged many start-ups to emerge in this domain which are partnering with many small and big healthcare provider and pharma players to develop an entire ecosystem based on AR & VR. Global Industry Analysts projects that the worldwide market for virtual reality in healthcare will reach $3.8 billion by 2020, which indicates that the demand for such technology is not going to die soon.

The Applications

Medical Training and Education: VR is increasingly being proven as a safe and cost-effective tool for imparting clinical education and training as it provides a far more immersive and realistic environment for healthcare professional to learn than the traditional videos and books. Loop Reality, an Indian start-up in this space is working on to develop a tool that will allow doctors to visualize a tumour in VR, analyse in 3D and help to perform dry-runs of the actual surgery. zSpace deploys an immersive medical learning platform for anatomical representation to procedural planning, adding a completely new dimension to the way medical education is provided.

Pharma Marketing: InceptionX, another innovative start-up, partnered with a major pharma player to create a virtual reality vertigo attack experience, which provided a first-hand experience of vertigo to doctors helping them to understand the symptoms in a better way before offering a treatment regime. This kind of ‘experiential marketing’ is being widely used by drug manufacturers to educate practitioners about the brand and drug benefits.

Empowering Patients: VR plays a major role in pain management, rehabilitation, social cognition training, and treatment of depressions, trauma and imaging. Psious, through its tools and interactive platform has been instrumental in treating mental-health patients.

This infographic powerfully explains some of the other application of VR in healthcare.

The Future

Inspite of the superb benefits and widespread adoption of VR/AR techniques, the technology is still in a very nascent stage in terms of application to a wider range of treatment regimes. It is under constant scrutiny for delivering clinical efficacy. We are at the cusp of an inflection point where we could witness the integration of VR with big data, predictive analytics and cognitive learning which will change the way healthcare is delivered. Let’s wait and watch. So far, people are still happy with their appointment with ‘Dr. VR’. Learn more about how AR & VR is transforming the healthcare industry.

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