While Virtual Reality (VR) is most commonly associated with gaming, video entertainment and retail, there is a much more significant and deeper impact that this advanced technology is making, and that is in the healthcare industry. In recent years, there are positive outcomes that are being reported by the use of VR on the lives of patients, surgeons and medical professionals.
Here’s an overview of how VR is impacting the healthcare industry.
In the U.S., pain management is a growing healthcare concern given that an estimated 100 million adults there suffer from chronic pain. An amount of approximately $17.8 billion is spent prescribing pain medication annually. While opioid medications have been used for pain management historically, it suffers from negative side effects such as delays in recovery and increased risk of permanent disability. Its use is further associated with increased hospital admissions, healthcare costs and even deaths. However, despite its flip side, the U.S. consumes 80% of the world’s opioids. In such a scenario, VR emerges as a viable alternative for management of chronic pain in patients with a majority of studies suggesting positive outcomes.
In addition to the management of chronic pain, the virtual reality technology is being used to calm patients before and during painful medical procedures, some of which result in acute pain. In December 2019, use of VR headsets at the St George Hospital in the UK showed that patients using them changed the way they experience anxiety during wide-awake surgery; 100% patients reported that wearing the VR headset improved their overall hospital experience and 94% said they felt more relaxed. Further, 80% felt less pain after wearing the headset and 73% reported feeling reduced anxiety. These are significant statistics.