How Can Virtual Reality Help Healthcare?

The ability to connect virtual reality technology to smartphone devices has unsurprisingly made the trend more popular than ever. For the most part, virtual reality is used by the general public for entertainment purposes by way of video game play. However, an increasing number of researchers and physicians believe virtual reality can have therapeutic uses as well. In fact, virtual reality uses in the healthcare market has grown from $525 million in 2012 to $976 million in 2017.

How is virtual reality is currently making an impact on the healthcare industry? Here are the top potential uses for virtual reality technology in healthcare:

PTSD

PTSD, also referred to Post-traumatic stress disorder, is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions in the United States and may very well be one of the most difficult conditions to treat. This disorder has become more widely known since 69,000 new cases were reported in 2013 from diagnosed Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Research also shows one in three people who experience any type of traumatic experience will experience PTSD. Unknown to many, PTSD disorders can be inactive for many years and be triggered by any event that makes the individual with the condition remember their traumatic experience.  

How can virtual reality help? Virtual reality can assist those who suffer from PTSD by placing them in pleasant environments and regulate the stimulus provided to them.  

Fitness

It’s no secret that much of the U.S. population is becoming more fitness conscious. There has been a significant increase in fitness apps and devices and by the looks of it, virtual  reality will have a huge impact as well. More and more people are researching and purchasing equipment that will virtually transport them to the destination of their choice for their workouts. Anyone who has ever imagined taking a jog on the beach or doing yoga in the rain forest would be better now have the ability to do so.

Quit smoking

For years, we have seen a surplus in ads that detail how bad smoking is for our planet and our individual health. While there have been products on the market such as nicotine gums, patches, and e-cigarettes virtual reality is seems to be a promising alternative.

Through the use of biofeedback, mindfulness, and psychological techniques – virtual reality can connect current smokers with non-smokers to help them bring an end to their smoking habits.

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

If you’re a gamer, know a gamer, or have children who are gamers you must know of the motion sensory additive to the popular xbox 360 and xbox one devices known as the Microsoft Kinect. The original purpose of the Kinect was to allow players to interact and control gameplay without using controllers and instead rely on spoken commands and gestures. Virtual reality can transcend gameplay and help those in need of physical therapy and rehabilitation by helping them achieve their therapeutic goals without even knowing they are participating in physical therapy.  

 

Digital Health Unit to be Created by the FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently announced that they will be allocated funds and resources to a new centralized unit focusing on mostly on regulating medical devices. This unit will be a branch within the Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

The goal of this unit, in conjunction with its larger department, is to basically maintain a certain level of consistency when it comes to applying effective health policies. The functions of this digital health unit range has two main areas which are outlined below:

  • Creating software and developing assistance programs for software as medical devices or other digital health technologies before they reach the public.
  • Integrating useful metrics to track, evaluate and report pre-market health submissions.

In order to diversify the efficiency throughout this new centralized digital health unit, the FDA has confirmed that the agency will be hiring experts from the private sector instead of bringing in talent internally.

“The world of digital health has a lot of expertise that we need to supplement our organization with,” Bakul Patel, associate director of digital health in the FDA’s CDRH states. “If we had to do it all internally, then it would defeat the purpose.”

However, it will be quite difficult to hire professionals with particular expertise in complex areas such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing and cybersecurity. While the salaries for these types of positions are quite high, Patel is hesitant with regard to hiring fresh, young talent right of college.

In other words, retention an area of concern within the FDA recruitment process He is aware that this type of position at the FDA is an experience booster, making these young professionals even more marketable, leading them to leave within a few years for another opportunity.  

In this competitive market, it is possible that the above factors will make it hard for even new centralized health units to retain talent when there are a wide spectrum of incoming opportunities in the private and public sectors.

How the Digital World Is Constantly Transforming Health Care

There is no question that the merging of health care and technology continues to shape what it means to be a patient in this market. With national health expenditures, accounting for more around 18% of the country’s GDP in 2015, new healthcare focused technology can alleviate some of the fiscal burden of chronic diseases.

The rise of telemedicine
Along with offering everyone additional accessibility, telemedicine saves time/money while also providing healthcare to patients in remote areas that may or may not have a healthcare facility close by.

Basically, patients can now speak with a therapist, physician or any other medical professional on their smartphone to update prescriptions or ask a question about their latest visit. Since telemedicine lacks facetime, access to emotional therapy is through a smartphone is more cost-efficient than meeting with a healthcare professional in person.

Cloud Access
Cloud technology has also changed the way in which we interact with the health care system and more importantly, how patient specific medical records are stored. In the past few years, doctors have used their smartphones for day to day functions such as retrieving drug info, and patients are able to access test results with minimal wait time. As a result of this, there has been a new shift in focusing on data related protection when it comes to patients’ private medical records.

Wearables
For many, the days of heading to your local grocery store and taking your blood pressure are long gone. Devices can perform DIY blood tests, or serve as a thermometer, which help patients regulate their day to day health without leaving their homes.

With some tools that have automation, individuals can measure their weight, pulse etc. and enter this information into their smartphones and transmit to medical professionals in minutes. If these details are submitted on a regular basis, this in turn can help predict one’s risk for heart disease and other illnesses that previously have not been so easily monitored and shared between both parties.