Virtual reality is no longer just for more realistic gaming experiences -- it is helping shape the healthcare industry. With medical virtual reality, doctors can train for surgical procedures, medical students can study the human body more closely, and patients can leave the four walls of the hospital room to swim with whales.
With that, we reviewed three companies on the cutting edge of Medical Virtual Reality.
With over a decade of research and clinical studies behind them, this San Fransisco-based company has found that immersive virtual reality can significantly reduce pain, relieve stress, and build resilience. Firsthand Technology has been a part of research teams that have established the field of VR pain control and helped build the first VR pain relief application, SnowWorld. While current treatments of chronic pain mainly involves narcotics, various studies enlisted by Firsthand Technology found that VR reduces the amount of time thinking about pain by 48%, while opioids only by 10%. Further, it decreases the unpleasantness of chronic pain by 38%, while opioids is only 16%.
They offer affordable and practical VR hardware kits and software, Cool! And Glow!. Cool! Takes you on a journey through a beautiful landscape of changing seasons, while Glow! Lets you draw beautiful light creatures with your hands. Through Cool!, chronic pain patients at Pain Consultants of East Tennessee showed pain reductions of 60-70% during the VR treatment, 30-50% immediately after the treatment, and this effect lasted up to 48 hours after the treatment with no dizziness, headaches, or nausea.
Both Cool! And Glow! Are available for both single patients and hospital settings. You can learn more about Firsthand Technology and their work here.
This Ohio based startup is changing the way surgeons consult with patients, plan complex surgeries, and use medical imaging to navigate surgery and post-op review. Surgical Theater has the first and only patented and FDA-cleared platform for neurosurgical pre-op planning -- SuRgical Planning (SRP). SRP uses a patient’s CT or MRI scan to create a 3D model the surgical team can use for pre-op planning.
Using flight simulator technology, Surgical Theater allows neurosurgeons to “fly” through the scene of the mission before making an incision. This allows surgeons to increase their situational awareness as they plan their procedure. Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at UCLA Medical Center, Dr. Neil Martin, explains, “Surgical Theater technology gives you an amazing ability to immerse yourself in the anatomical structures and mentally rehearse the entire operation ahead of time. It also allows you to reorient yourself during critical steps of a complex surgery.”
You can learn more about Surgical Theater here.
For the past nine years, this Swiss company has been developing and producing highly realistic surgical simulators for medical training. This allows surgeons to use their original instruments to train in a safe, controlled environment before performing surgeries on patients. This allows doctors to adapt to original tools, train whenever and wherever, and reduces training-related costs. Not only is VirtaMed improving the quality of care and patient safety, they are giving doctors a chance to learn an endless variety of pathologies.
You can learn more about VirtaMed here.
From pain management, surgical training, brain damage rehabilitation, meditation, and social cognition training for young adults with autism, the possibilities for medical virtual reality are open-ended. What do you hope to see medical VR achieve?