Virtual Reality or VR has been around for decades now and has had thousands of clinical studies that prove it should be implanted in healthcare facilities around the world. The major problem was that the hardware itself was too big, too clunky, too expensive and not practical for everyone to invest in.
Now with major changes and breakthroughs in VR technology, from companies like Samsung, Oculus, Morpheus, and many others, VR tech is portable and affordable. Because of those 2 most important factors, hospitals around the world and more adults are embracing the use of VR in a wide variety of healthcare uses.
Here in the Caribbean, VR has not taken off outside of the hardcore gamers, most people still think that its reserved for the movies and has not made its way into daily practical uses. I myself have never gotten into it because I just never seen much need for it in my own life. Until the Samsung S9 launch, there was a 5 sec clip in the opening video where a patient who was learning to walk again was doing so with the use of virtual reality.
Visually seeing that, it hit me that we are severely underutilising the technology. The hardware is low risk, high reward situation. In doing my homework on how we could utilise VR in our healthcare facilities and also even at home pre/post hospital visits, I decided to give you my top 5 ways that VR can change the game for us here in the Caribbean.
- Pain Management – VR has found itself as a great alternative to pain medication. Doctors are always looking at ways for alternatives to narcotics and VR has been instrumental in reducing clients pain through distractions.
- Anxiety – Through the use of guided meditations in VR, patients who have suffered from anxiety-related mental health illnesses can use VR to centre and calm themselves down. This would be great for at home usage, after a long day at work or before bed. Some people have a hard time closing their eyes and listening to calm music to meditate, this is definitely an alternative to get more people into meditation.
- Reduced Hospital Costs – Running a hospital is definitely not cheap. The Mt Irvin hospital in Virginia, USA, has been a huge supporter of VR. Since introducing it, they have been able to save money because VR has allowed some patients to help get patients on IV, or drugs faster, and get patients eating sooner after procedures, which resulted in shorter time spent in the hospital which in effect has allowed them to save money.
- Kids – The anxiety that kids have as soon as they enter the hospital and see the Dr we know can be very traumatic for kids. Usually, parents try to distract kids with games, songs, forcing them to look at them while the Dr does his thing, you name it. VR is being used to soothe kids and distract them so the Dr has an easier time and it reduces the stress on the children.
- Better Patient Experience – The hospital is equivalent to stress. Especially when you are laying there for days and maybe only a TV to keep you occupied. The boredom leads to overthinking, overthinking leads to stress, and stress leads to longer recovery times. Patients with a VR headset whether from the hospital or brought in from the family will be helping their loved ones with their recovery time and at the very least curb their overthinking and boredom.
There are hundreds of different applications being developed now that the actual hardware has become available to consumers at a good price. I myself will be looking into getting my own for the guided meditations but also the different travelling apps that will allow you to see the world right from your own living room.
Companies like AppliedVR are championing the use of VR in hospitals by specializing in creating content for a variety of uses and for patients with different symptoms. You can check out this link to AppliedVR to see all the amazing things they are doing in this space. (See Applied VR)
Smartphones are really beginning to showcase their power in a multitude of ways that we can begin to put in much bigger and important uses than just shooting selfies or playing games.
We have not scratched the surface of the different uses for VR in the health field, and since we are usually behind here in the Caribbean, I can definitely see some great things happening with the introduction of VR into our very own sweet island lives.