Earlier in 2016, a baby in Miami was born with only one lung and half her heart. The doctors in Miami told the parents to not have any hope. Two months later the parents turned to a surgeon who agreed to conduct a surgical experiment which might save the baby’s life. He used a mobile app to create a virtual reality (VR) model of baby’s heart that was viewed from Google cardboard. Within virtual reality, the doctors could view the heart from every possible angle and could position the heart in relation to baby’s rib cage and other organs. The surgeon rerouted baby’s one ventricle so that it could effectively perform the task of a complete heart long term. Four weeks after the surgery, the baby is on the road of a full recovery. That’s the power of virtual reality (VR) and how it can transform the way healthcare is provided.

VR Applications in Healthcare:

Sample these couple of use cases. A middle-age woman in Jaipur, India is receiving exercise regime as part of the treatment for vertigo. But this exercise regime has a twist. It is delivered via virtual reality (VR) by NeuroEquilibrium – a super-specialty healthcare startup chain of vertigo and balance disorders clinics. Many patients who undergo exercises to treat vertigo often complain of heaviness in head and rocking sensation while performing those exercises. Application of VR with these exercises have reduced such issues considerably and patients can easily perform them at home without assistance. Patients, after strapping on a VR headgear like Oculus Rift or Samsung VR gear, are totally immersed in the experience.

MindMaze, a Swiss start-up founded in 2012, is using a combination of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality, brain imaging and video games for rehabilitation of patients suffering from strokes and Parkinson’s disease.

Globally, even though widespread use of VR is visible in industries like entertainment and real estate, its usage in healthcare industry is in a nascent stage. VR’s application is mainly seen in performing complex surgery, training of healthcare professionals, diagnostic measures, physiotherapy, programs for reducing stress, anxiety and pain management. Learn more about healthcare companies which are making innovations in virtual reality.

Training of Healthcare Professionals:

Immersive virtual simulation is increasingly being used to train surgeons, nurses and other HCPs and this technique is pioneered by NHS in UK. With increase in patient awareness and demand for more experienced surgeons, trainee doctors are not able to get sufficient hands-on experience in performing major surgeries. Here VR comes to rescue and is used to train doctors in real-time scenarios providing valuable experience to them. Pre-programmed scenarios are used to help doctors train in real time challenging situations that they come across in an operation theater on daily basis. Very soon, VR devices such as Oculus Rift will be used in combination with the existing robotics and haptic technology to conduct the simulated operation while wearing goggles, transporting them into a virtual environment helping them to fine tune their motor skills. Currently, more than 20 specialist simulation centers across the UK are using these techniques to train medical professionals.

Future Growth:

A recent Goldman-Sachs report forecasts the market for AR/VR in healthcare, next only to gaming, will reach $5.1 billion by 2025. The report addresses the technology as disruptive and expects access to increase as price of production drops with widespread implementation in various healthcare domains. Clearly, this technology will be having many adopters in near future.

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