VR programs helping to train doctors, to provide more effective treatments
Tech’s greatest minds are gathered at a conference this week to imagine the next evolution of virtual reality (VR).
Virtual reality is a digital simulation of a 3D environment that people can interact with through a wearable headset.
The technology has become more accessible and affordable, and experts say it could change the way people receive medical care.
“You know, it’s a slam dunk match for virtual reality,” said Dr. Skip Rizzo of the University of Southern California Institute of Creative Technologies.
He has been one of the leading researchers on clinical applications of virtual reality for decades. He says there is scientific evidence that virtual reality can help improve a wide range of treatments, from rehabilitation and pain management to anxiety and phobias.
“So someone is afraid of heights. Well, maybe you can install them on a first-floor balcony or a glass elevator that’s raised a few feet off the ground, ”said Rizzo. “With VR, we can actually immerse people in these simulations and simulations of these events at a rate that can handle.”
Rizzo says this type of exposure therapy has also been shown to be effective in helping people with autism prepare for job interviews.
VR also helps people with chronic pain by using technology to teach patients proven pain management strategies.
“With a needle, you know, look the other way, don’t watch the needle go in, that sort of thing.” But with virtual reality, you can put someone in a VR headset and have them participate in a game, activity, or a calming environment, ”said Rizzo. “Whether on top of Mount Everest or in an underwater scenario, swimming with a pod of dolphins.”
Rizzo says VR can also help distract a person’s mind during uncomfortable chemotherapy treatment or dental procedures. And it can help with physical therapy or recovery programs for stroke survivors.
Rizzo says virtual reality treatments aren’t for everyone and stresses that the treatments are not meant to replace human healthcare providers.