Imagine yourself being highly sensitive to every factor influencing your environment. Moreover, you are in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, stressed because of the concerns you have about your health. You haven’t been feeling well for a few weeks, so you took some blood tests, and the doctor’s office called you to discuss the results. You don’t know what to expect.
And you are waiting.
There are many people there talking. The light above your head has to be fixed – it’s flashing over your head all the time, accompanied by a silent but repeatable and irritating sound. The nurses have their radios on. A child is crying in the room next to you. And this flashing light. This noise. You’re stressed enough even without it. And you are still waiting. You are overwhelmed now. You are close to a panic attack. You think about what will happen in the doctor’s room – will you even be able to focus on what he wants to tell you?
That’s how some clinic patients may feel while waiting for their appointment or sitting in the ER waiting for their turn to receive help.
Isn’t this a description suitable only for neurodivergent patients? No. The high stress caused by health problems is enough to make anyone feel uncomfortable. We are now more aware of mental health than earlier. And we know how significant influence it can have. So now, we are more confident that we must focus on treating patients and discover ways to enhance the patient experience. And that’s where XR technologies – like virtual reality can help.
Enhancing patients’ experience from education to the doctor’s office
Caring about the patient is very important for the whole medical industry. We are now living in the era of accessible healthcare; our lifespan has become much longer than ever before. We have medicines for illnesses that would kill our grand-grand-grandparents. But people are still very likely to avoid seeking help for health problems.
Healthcare professionals are doing a lot to educate patients, save their lives, treat them and give them hope for a better future. There are new ways to improve the patient experience while dealing with chronic illnesses and new ways to manage pain. But this is also a great time for disinformation and fake news. People come to the doctor’s office with a ready diagnosis for their problems and crazy ideas of treatment they’ve found on the internet.
Education is a huge part of dealing with civilization diseases and other medical problems. And this education should occur in the same place where people find fake news and disinformation to create counterweight. Social media and metaverses are where you want to be with your knowledge.
Did you know that certified therapists are providing psychotherapy in metaverses like AltspaceVR? They create patient-friendly environments – calm and comforting, so the patient doesn’t even need to leave their safe zone to receive help and support from professionals. That’s not the main advantage of this creative way to increase patient satisfaction.
Such spaces are also a form of meeting accessible for people with disabilities who find it hard to leave the house. Moreover, by creating a dedicated environment (even personalized for each patient), therapists can create a perfect, immersive place to recover.
In metaverses, you can create your own space and organize live events to educate and talk to people about their health, healthy habits and lifestyle. You can discuss this with them and encourage them to get professional assistance. You can help them find trustworthy sources of information.
The most significant advantage is that you will be close to them, talk with them personally and show how you care about them. One hour a week sounds like a lot? What if this one hour will encourage two more people to get help, and it will save their lives in the long term? What if this hour will convince one person not to believe in disinformation? And what if this one person uses your arguments to talk with friends and family?
Mental health support
When it comes to the mental state of patients during the healing process, Vanderbilt University psychology professor Oakley Ray mentioned research that shows that an optimistic way of looking at the world lowers the risk of coronary heart disease and increases survival in some cancer patients. “It really is true that the will to live is an important part of staying alive” – he said.
That’s why it is important to support people during the illness from the doctor-patient perspective and look wider at the patient’s relationships with their family and friends. GSK provided an amazing option to do that – they created a VR simulator that showed the patient’s relatives how it feels to have a migraine attack.
The simulator had personalization options so every patient could adjust the effect accurately for how they, as individuals, are experiencing the symptoms. You can watch how emotional the reactions to this experience were below. I’m sure that from that day, these people were more supportive of the ones they loved.
Isn’t it a great idea to help patients receive the proper support not only from healthcare professionals but also from their loved ones? Sometimes chronic diseases or some disabilities are not visible to people around the patients. Maybe VR simulators, supported with some additional hardware, can be a creative way to increase patients’ satisfaction during the healing process (which will be much easier with great help from the relatives and the patient’s positive attitude).
And how about solving the issue from the beginning of this article? You can prepare a special environment in VR to let patients distance themselves from the stressful and irritating factors in the waiting room. Simply let them put the VR headset on to keep them calm and comfortable. It will have a significant influence on how they feel before the appointment.
Nearly one-third of U.S. citizens avoid seeking medical care study shows. 33.3% of them are doing this because of the factors related to physicians, health care organizations and affective concerns. In this category, you can see problems with interpersonal communication in patient-doctor relations.
We all know that medical language is not easy, and I’m always amazed when I meet a doctor who can clearly and vividly explain everything I, as a patient, should understand and remember. We also know that people often feel judged, objectified, criticized or misunderstood when discussing their health concerns.
One of the creative ways to increase patient satisfaction in this field could be providing medical staff with training that will help them understand how the way communication can influence patients’ emotions. You can prepare training suitable for your clinic and its specialization
It can be based on AI and 3D avatars to show doctors, in the most immersive way, how big an impact their words can have – and it’s not about them being rude – not at all. Too detailed or complicated information can overwhelm patients. There is a probability that they will leave the doctor’s office confused and insecure, not even confident with the treatment plan, cause they don’t understand how it will work.
It doesn’t have to be that detailed – you can show your staff VR soft skills training focused on cooperation and giving others simple, short, clear information. We’ve created one such training for our client – MissionOne. The goal of the training was to communicate properly because it was the only way to succeed in the given mission. You can read more about it here.
We went from the attitude to the doctor-patient relationship. You encouraged patients to seek professional help, you made them feel comfortable during the conversation, and now it’s time to treat the disease. Here comes VR again.
Sometimes the most challenging thing is to go through the painful processes. It’s not a pleasure, and people tend to lose motivation. You can often encounter situations like this in the rehabilitation process. People need to exercise regularly to achieve their goals and don’t feel long-term consequences on their health.
But rehabilitation (including neurorehabilitation) can be monotonous and/or painful. How to keep the patient engaged in the process? Motivation is a significant factor, but if you think every patient’s motivation should be being healthy – that’s not how we, people, work. And probably many of us have guilty pleasures that aren’t good for our health. So health itself is often not enough to keep a patient’s positive attitude throughout the rehabilitation process.
So what if we make rehabilitation really fun? What if we based rehabilitation on an entertaining, immersive and exciting experience? That’s what we did in a neurorehabilitation game that helped patients after stroke recover. It was a colorful and enjoyable application that kept patients motivated and used gamification to create a desire to achieve better results. It was a creative way to increase patient satisfaction.
Now imagine physiotherapy with an amazing view of the Great Canion. Or on the rooftop, so you can watch the city at night during your exercises. You can propose to your patients a VR app with a virtual trainer showing how to exercise and body tracking to monitor the training. The training environment can be personalized so patients can choose where they want to train – endless possibilities.
Moreover, achievements will be rewarded, so you are also influencing the reward center of the patients’ brains to build high engagement and motivation. The results will be sent directly to a physiotherapist and/or the doctor to have complete control over the patient’s progress and capabilities. You can include new exercises as patients become better and better. Sounds good?
VR has a lot to offer. The possibilities of creating extraordinary solutions are endless (maybe sometimes just a little bit limited by hardware capabilities 🙂 ). Both patients and healthcare professionals can benefit from them. With this short sneak peek, I’m sure you’ll find areas in your specialization where you can successfully adopt VR solutions.
With all those extraordinary ideas for enhancing patients’ experience, you can reach out to us to make them come true. We’re not orthopedists, but we’ve got your back.