Technological advancements and innovation have led to many new ways of going about things, especially virtual reality in healthcare industry. One of these innovations and recent fad is Virtual Reality (VR). Virtual reality is defined as an artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli (such as signs and sounds) provided by a computer in which one’s actions partially determine what happens in the environment.
Healthcare professionals have researched and experienced using virtual reality for different medical situations and have seen some success. Since there is a great importance of patient care, how are hospitals and other healthcare professionals implementing, or planning to implement virtual reality in healthcare and how they take care of their patients.
The Oakland Children’s Hospital, who is affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco, have implemented custom-built virtual reality software for specific medical procedures and conditions. They use KindVR, which is a virtual reality therapy software, to help patients mitigate pain and stress during vulnerable times. They specifically used KindVR to help patients with Sickle Cell Disease remove focusing on their pain.
Hospitals across the country have started using VR to help lower pain and stress for a broad variety of patients. From burn patients to the elderly, VR is working its way to becoming a “pain medication” in itself.
Recently, the use of Virtual Reality in healthcare helped the Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis with the separation of conjoined twins. The twins, who were three months old, were joined far more extensively than most other conjoined twins, which made the procedure potentially dangerous and more difficult. Before the surgery happened, doctors took CT, MRI, and ultrasound scans to create a very detailed virtual model of the twins bodies.
Dr. Anthony Azakie, one of the surgeons who separated the twins, said “You look through the 3D glasses and you basically walk through the structure, peeling apart parts so you can look at exactly what you want to do.” Doctors all over the United States are starting to use VR as a way to prepare for medical procedures. “This really helped minimize the number of surprises that we were potentially dealing with,” Dr. Azakie said.
A 34 year old Los Angeles man who has had more than 30 surgeries related to his Crohn's disease, was terrified of having an intravenous line inserted into his arm (IV). Because of his Crohn's's, it was difficult for nurses to find a vain in his arm. One day, he experimented with virtual reality as a research project. As the nurse was finding his vain and inserting the IV, the 34 year old man was relaxing as he looked at the natural, calming beauty of Yellowstone National Park. Since then, he uses VR during IV insertions, blood draws, breakthrough pain and even insomnia.
As the world we live in is rapidly changing and becoming more technologically advanced, it is only right to assume the use of virtual reality in healthcare is only going to grow. As there is still a lot of research and testing going on as we speak, the future is looking promising.
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