Digital Health Explained

VR in Health Care

4 October 2021

Have you ever wanted to be somewhere, but without having to be there?

Virtual Reality (VR) often brings thoughts of 1980s action movies and teenage boys gaming in their bedrooms, but the reality of VR is here and available to buy for recreation, but it brings several benefits for health and care.

VR is a computer simulated environment viewed through a headset such as the oculus where the users can interact with the scene with their hands or specialist joysticks and tools. There are fun applications that allow you to experience a roller coaster or visit a museum - without even taking your slippers off - helping users to learn, explore and visit locations they cannot access without leaving their current location or putting themselves and others in harm’s way.

One brilliant use of VR technology is to provide medical education and train professionals in surgical procedures, practicing complex procedures over and over without using a live patient as a guinea pig – much like how F1 racing drivers learn to perfect their technique ahead of big races to memorise tracks and corners.

VR not only allows for more ‘hands on’ practice but makes the education accessible regardless of location or availability of tools, mentors, or patients in need. Aside from the ease of access of the training, staff time and PPE is saved, saving health services money too.

The technology can help those caring for patients to understand their experience, being able to experience what it is like to have sight difficulties, to receive support to eat and drink and even how it may feel to be lifted in a hoist. This enables the professional to build on their existing empathy with their own ‘lived experience’ too, helping them to be even better carers.

With professionals able to benefit from training virtually – how can patients themselves benefit from VR? One of our favourite apps is for children, was designed to prepare children for hospital visits and treatments from the comfort and safety of their own home. Through interactive virtual reality tours and other supporting content that is tailored to their age, patients and their families are familiarised with understandable information about what to expect, intending to ease anxiety. The company even made resources to help children to understand Covid-19 testing.

With VR now reality – where will you choose to be?