Most people associate VR with gaming and entertainment, but it has the potential to revolutionize the medical industry. VR is already helping doctors and their patients suffering from certain disorders, including chronic pain, vision problems, and autism.
Reducing the Chronic Perception of Pain
Millions of people around the world suffer from chronic pain, with many of them taking painkillers daily. VR has the potential to reduce pain by 25 percent. Medical VR stops the brain from processing pain, thereby shortening patients’ hospital stays. One initiative created to help distract people with chronic pain, Famoo, succeeds in doing so by helping them focus more on virtual realities to relieve the stress. They can swim in the ocean, fly in planes, or play a game – all things that can help take their mind off pain and treatment. When the patient is less agitated, the doctor is also able to focus on their treatment better.
The software developed by Karuna Labs reduces the threat response that causes pain by providing motion and visual-based experiences. According to the company, their product helps people with chronic pain understand how pain works at different levels of the brain. When they understand, they can accept it more easily.
Language and speech therapy has been shown to improve communication abilities and social skills. Currently, autism therapy is possible only with visits to the doctor’s office. Companies like Floreo hope to change that using VR. Their product uses mobile VR to provoke social interactions with autistic kids by creating virtual characters in a scene. Autistic children can see a rhino in a virtual safari park, for example. Doctors can customize the virtual environments and select or adjust the sensory complexity within them. The product has been launched and seems to have a very positive, relaxing effect on autistic children.
Almost 140 million people around the world have impaired vision. Surgery cannot correct low vision, and neither can glasses or medication. Products like IrisVision can help people improve their sight via a VR experience. Within this environment, users choose the magnification they wish together with things like text options, contrast, and ambiance level. They can then perform eye-hand coordinated activities (cooking or playing the piano) easily.
The uses of VR to doctors and the medical industry in general are still limited because this technology is in its early stages. Only time will tell how useful it can really be.