Virtual reality (VR) is more than a buzzword in the gaming industry. It holds the promise of revolutionizing how treatment is provided and how doctors are trained. The VR market in healthcare is expected to grow to $3.8 billion by 2020, according to a report by Global Industry Analysts. Another report by Grand View Research predicts this market to grow to a whopping $5.1 billion by 2025. Rapid technological advancements in healthcare IT and rising demand for simulation training and rehabilitation are the primary driving forces.
As a therapeutic tool, VR can help patients redirect their attention from unpleasant thoughts and feelings, towards calming activities, such as viewing a sunset or going for a stroll in the park. VR has the potential to provide systematic desensitization for people suffering from PTSD, and has proved effective in helping overcome phobias and addictions and in pain management.
VR is fast emerging as an effective rehabilitation technology, providing motivation to patients with a more enjoyable experience. From facilitating motor learning for gait rehabilitation, to aiding the recovery of patients after a brain injury, VR holds much promise. Studies using this technology to slow memory loss, delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, and manage patients suffering from autism and Asperger’s syndrome, are ongoing.
Education and Training
VR has already made a foray in healthcare education. The technology can be used for for emergency training and explaining surgical procedures. The live streaming of breakthrough surgeries, as well the potential for patient monitoring and care, presents a huge market opportunity. A virtual tour of the human body can help patients better understand their ailments and suggested treatment alternatives.
VR is still in its infancy. The focus areas for the latest developments include preventive healthcare, rehabilitation, assistive living, cancer therapy, and surgical training.