Today, healthcare is at the forefront of virtual reality (VR). VR technology is now gaining acceptance for use in the treatment of phobias, autism, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and severe pain cases. This year at Health 2.0, known as the “premiere showcase and catalyst for the advancement of new health technologies,” I saw firsthand how VR as treatment is becoming a reality through a stunning example introduced by Cedars-Sinai in partnership with AppliedVR.
Dr Brennan Spiegel, Director of Health Services Research for Cedars-Sinai Health System, demonstrated his research on the treatment of pain and stress with VR. The approach uses VR to transport patients to more relaxing places, where they can explore pleasant environments while learning mindfulness and acceptance-based techniques to help with stress, anxiety, and pain management.
“Developed with psychologists and leading academics, therapeutic virtual reality is used to help transport a patient from the medical environment, to a peaceful scenic place, to relax and learn mindfulness and acceptance-based techniques, and manage stress and anxiety.” – AppliedVR
Cedars-Sinai, in partnership with Techstars Healthcare Accelerator, was an early backer of Applied VR, a VR startup. AppliedVR’s first product suite, Pain RelieVR, was developed to distract patients from their procedures and potential painful recovery while in the hospital.
Through Pain RelieVR, patients take a journey including a helicopter ride over Iceland’s countryside, an art studio to create paintings, and an underwater voyage to swim with the dolphins. After the VR experience, doctors interviewed patients and the results were analyzed to see how the experience improved the patients’ hospital experience or recovery process.
Many reported that it helped relieve stress and anxiety. Additional studies have shown that, while younger patients have been most willing to test the system, it’s the older patients who appear to be most amazed by it and have the biggest benefit due to the positive effects on Alzheimer’s. Cedars-Sinai has begun an initial launch of the technology in the Orthopaedic Center with the remaining departments launching shortly afterwards.
By using VR technology in hospitals, we can significantly improve the quality and experience patients have during their stay, while decreasing the number of resources needed by patients or the length of the patient’s hospital stay. The end goal is to understand how best to leverage VR is to improve the overall healthcare experience.
VR has proven to be an incredible immersive tool for education and entertainment. The opportunities with VR are only beginning, and I expect to see more breakthroughs like Therapeutic VR, in the near future.
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