This year has seen the release of multiple virtual reality (VR) headsets aimed at the home consumer. As they are becoming more affordable, hospitals and companies are researching the benefits in a healthcare environment, and the early results are positive.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are conducting studies using the software, and the early results are positive. Cedars-Sinai researchers found that 20 minutes of using the VR software reduced patients’ pain by almost 25 percent; patients had an average pain score of 5.5 out of 10 before the VR experience and an average score of 4 after using the software. The researchers say this is a dramatic reduction, and not far from the effect of narcotics. At Stanford Children’s Health, they speculate that VR can be valuable for helping children get through tedious or uncomfortable procedures, such as physical therapy or imaging studies.
Though providers are cautiously optimistic about the possibilities, there are still some hurdles to overcome. It is difficult to find developers who want to target medical issues, because of the unclear path to profitability. One startup company, ApplieVR, is building a library of content designed to help patients “before, during, and after medical procedures” It’s also important to determine when the technology can helpful and when it can’t; some patients won’t respond to the applications as well as others, and researchers are careful not to oversell the value of VR at this early stage.
For more information, check out the MIT Technology Review article.
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