Virtual Reality Is Going To Revolutionize Healthcare

I’ve always assumed Virtual Reality (VR) was something only for gamers, and I am not a gamer. Even when I heard people say that VR is the next technology to become mainstream, I never thought of it outside the entertainment world.

My mind was opened to a whole new application for VR when I attended the Virtual Reality in Healthcare Symposium in Washington, D.C. The event was held at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University, and drew people from all over the country and world.

Although I knew nothing of VR technology or its uses in healthcare when I walked through the doors that morning, by the time I left at 5 p.m. I could think of nothing else. My mind was filled with all that I’d learned: VR concepts, innovations, VR applications already in use, and companies and products we should expect to start seeing in healthcare. In our current political climate, healthcare is not always an exciting or positive topic of discussion. This seminar however, made me want to talk to everyone about the exciting VR movement that many of us have not heard about but should expect to see in the not-so-distant future, regardless of our field within healthcare.

Going into the daylong event, the little information I had about VR was linked entirely to the gaming world. But when I left, it was with an understanding of why people are so excited about this revolution.
Here are some quick facts I learned about VR:

  • Within 3 years, there will be 30 million users.
  • Within 6 years VR will be adopted by 70 million users. (This means VR will be adopted faster than both the internet and smartphones.)
  • VR is not a new concept; 30 years of academic research and more than 3,000 studies demonstrate that VR can improve behaviors, attitudes and health.
  • In healthcare, there are four general categories in which this technology is being utilized: health and wellness, medical training, assessment, and medical interventions.

Specific healthcare areas and conditions already utilizing VR include:

  • Treatment of PTSD
  • Assessment and diagnosis of ADHD
  • Senior care, such as isolation therapy and stroke rehabilitation
  • Pain distraction
  • Stress inoculation therapy
  • Risk avoidance therapy
  • Physician empathy training
  • Surgical preparation

One of the most powerful stories I heard that day was that of a VR company created in response to a diagnosis of autism in a young boy. More than 1.5 million children are diagnosed with some form of autism, and most families struggle with finding accessible and affordable therapy. After experiencing those struggles trying to find therapy for his son, Vijay Ravindran decided to create a solution by founding his own company, Floreotech.

The company uses VR to provide a safe, immersive, repeatable, and affordable therapy option. It allows the parents to interact with their children, knowing the content is based on a proven therapy curriculum. As someone who has a family member with autism, I was amazed by the thoughtfulness and detail Floreotech has put into the platform. They have created a system that allows the parents to take control of the child’s care, regardless of time, money, or accessibility to therapists.

As I walked out of the event with my head spinning from this exciting new world I learned about, I realized that this is just the beginning of the VR movement in healthcare. The possibilities for changing people’s lives – simply by having them put on a headset – are limitless. We at Sport and Spine Rehab and the Clinical Research Foundation are always looking to improve and expand our services, seeking evidence-based treatment strategies that provide value to our patients and community. Who knows, maybe Virtual Reality will be our next project!

For more information about the current treatments already incorporated into our clinical practice, check out www.ssrehab.com.

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