The healthcare sector is one of the most important industries in the world for quite obvious reasons. Because of their crucial role in our well-being, lots of money is being invested in research and development of medical practices. We’ve seen a lot of incredible progress in the last century – from the discovery of penicillin in 1928 to the invention of the laser and MRI scanner in the 60s and 70s.
This technological and scientific progress isn’t slowing down—quite the opposite. One interesting solution that’s recently gained popularity is VR medical simulations. A VR medical simulation is exactly what it sounds like – a simulation of medical procedures, conditions, and treatments that uses virtual reality technology. Let’s have a closer look at this exciting new piece of technology.
The growing demand for VR medical simulations
What’s so great about VR medical simulations? They allow professionals and students to practice diagnostic & treatment processes in a safe environment without the risk of causing harm to a real patient. Statistics show VR training is generally incredibly effective, so these simulations are also great for onboarding the staff and introducing them to work and safety procedures.
Medical simulations can also enable healthcare providers to simulate and practice patient interactions in a controlled environment. Despite their vast medical knowledge, many doctors lack soft skills. Some aren’t great at communicating or aren’t empathetic enough. Things like this make the experience more stressful for patients. VR simulations have proved to be a fantastic tool for soft skills training too.
Besides training, potential applications of a VR medical simulation in the healthcare industry include the visualization of medical data, patient stress reduction and PTSD treatment. A virtual reality simulation can also evaluate the effectiveness of medical devices and treatments.
Additionally, they can be used to improve the planning and coordination of medical care and the delivery of medical services. All this makes VR medical simulations a powerful tool to help healthcare providers and actual patients.
Benefits of VR medical simulation for healthcare professionals
Accurate and safe environment
Virtual reality medical simulations allow healthcare professionals to practice medical procedures in a controlled environment. This can reduce medical errors and improve future patient care. Working with virtual patients can help reduce stress and anxiety among training participants, as the mistakes they may make will not affect real patients. This allows them to focus on learning and skill development.
Better efficiency and cost savings
Learning with virtual reality headsets also means cost reduction. Generally speaking, VR healthcare training requires less time and resources than traditional methods. Using expensive medical equipment is not necessary, and trainees can practice their skills virtually anywhere. Of course, you need to buy the devices and develop the software. This deters many people, as it seems like a complicated and costly endeavor.
But is that really the case? Not necessarily. Of course, if you want to purchase a hundred top-of-the-line headsets and create a next-generation simulation with extreme realism, you must prepare an adequate amount of money. But you don’t have to go full out in the beginning.
Why not start with a few mainstream headsets and a single medical training scenario? It’s pretty easy to create a relatively simple application that you can enhance in the future. Another idea is starting with an MVP version. Start using it and upgrade to the full version once you acquire more funds.
Improved results and effectiveness
Finally, let’s talk about the effectiveness of healthcare education based on immersive technologies. As we’ve already discussed, it enables experiencing medical treatments in a realistic environment. Virtual reality headsets also minimize outside distractions and make learners engaged and focused on the learning process.
Technology offers customization of the training scenarios to meet students’ specific needs and skill levels, allowing them to focus on areas where they need the most improvement. Studies have demonstrated that simulation-based training can lead to better patient outcomes, increased diagnostic accuracy, and improved teamwork and communication among healthcare professionals.
For example, a study by the Yale University School of Medicine showed that surgeons trained in virtual reality were faster by 29% than their colleagues who did not use VR learning. They also made six times fewer mistakes!
How virtual reality solutions help patients
Undoubtedly, VR medical simulations can assist physicians and nurses in their work. But they also have the potential to help patients directly.
VR applications that help treat patients
Virtual reality has been used in stroke rehabilitation to improve motor function and coordination by providing patients with interactive exercises and tasks that simulate real-life scenarios. This can help patients regain movement and function in affected limbs. We at 4Experience had the chance to work on a VR Stroke Rehabilitation project and can confirm it’s a truly effective tool.
Additionally, VR simulations are a great tool for treating PTSD by exposing patients to a virtual reality environment that simulates their traumatic experience, allowing them to confront their fear in a safe and controlled environment. This type of therapy, known as exposure therapy, has been shown to be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms.
Finally, we can use VR to provide patients with a better understanding of their medical conditions and treatments, allowing them to make more informed decisions about their healthcare.
Virtual reality can lower anxiety among children who are getting vaccinated by creating an immersive and engaging environment that distracts them from the discomfort of the injection.
For example, a VR program may take the child on an adventure, such as flying through space or swimming with dolphins, while a healthcare provider administers the vaccine. This is exactly how the SuperKid Vaccination App developed by 4Experience worked.
A safe painkiller
Treating pain among patients can be facilitated by virtual reality. Similarly to reducing anxiety, VR creates an immersive and distracting environment that helps to shift their focus away from their pain. This distraction helps to reduce the perception of pain, making it more tolerable.
For example, patients can use virtual reality headsets to immerse themselves in a peaceful, natural environment, such as a forest or beach, while they undergo a painful medical procedure. While VR can be a helpful tool in pain management, it’s unlikely to replace opioids and other painkillers completely. In some cases, however, it may reduce the need for these medications.
Additionally, because VR doesn’t have the negative side effects of traditional painkillers, it’s a great safe alternative.
The challenges of using virtual reality in medicine
Though VR and simulations offer a number of benefits for business professionals in the healthcare industry, there are also several challenges. One we’ve already discussed is the initial cost of development and infrastructure. But remember, the truth is you don’t have to break the bank to create decent VR tools. You can start small and expand your project anytime.
Representing the complexity of real-world treatments
Another challenge is accurately representing the complexity of real-life processes and diseases in a virtual environment. For example, simulating a surgical theater in real time requires immense medical knowledge and technical expertise.
But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible, it will just require more time and resources. It’s worth pointing out, though, that VR training programs don’t have to be that complex. You can settle for simpler applications like onboarding training or a nursing simulation to train your staff.
Finally, the technological limitations of VR medical simulations can pose a challenge. Although technology is rapidly advancing, it still isn’t perfect.
It should be pointed out that it is possible to achieve photorealistic visuals, but only on high-end hardware, which is quite expensive. But we are limited in terms of input, for example. The VR simulation controllers have their shortcomings and can’t faithfully simulate things like using a scalpel. They may sometimes lack precision too.
However, improvements and upgrades to the hardware are regular and very promising. What isn’t possible today will be possible tomorrow.
Find a trusted partner for your virtual reality development needs
Virtual reality simulations are a fantastic technology with many real-life applications. They can help patients directly and assist students and professionals in medical training, indirectly improving patient care. If you’re thinking about developing a VR medical simulation for your company, we’re here to help.
Drop us a line, and we’ll schedule a free 60-minute consultation with one of our experts!