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Virtual Reality and the Future of Healthcare

Incorporating VR into healthcare

The future of healthcare is likely to be more virtual but not in the ways you would expect. Virtual reality (VR) has been a promising field of study in health and science in recent years.

One of the ways VR is used in healthcare is to help people handle chronic treatment by using it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic pain is a severe health problem that can affect 11 to 40 percent of adults.

The researchers focused on a non-drug approach to treating chronic pain, specifically lower back pain, during a study conducted at Cedars-Sinai. For this study, they tracked patients for up to 90 days after wearing a VR headset to monitor whether they experience a positive or substantial change in their pain level.

We are looking at ways, VR can help you learn to focus your attention on events beyond the pain, using the time-tested cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.


How doctors use VR as an empathy tool

Few hospital systems use VR simulations as a means to help doctors empathize more with their patients.

It can be difficult for doctors to feel what it’s like to have dementia, or what it’s like to have a migraine headache or to be a family member taking care of someone with Parkinson’s disease. To help doctors better understand what their patients are going through, these examples can be simulated in VR.

Physicians experience having unique health problems or being in such real-life scenarios during these VR simulations, such as being the victim of verbal assault in a case of domestic violence. By using  VR as an empathy tool, doctors can be more involved with the needs of their patients, and better understand what it’s like to think like a patient.


How doctors are using VR to educate patients and families

In 2017, Cedars-Sinai partnered with a church in the United States to initiate a preventive health initiative to minimize high blood pressure, addressing a specific population. As part of the collaboration, participants watched a VR video on a mobile phone demonstrating the effects of sodium consumption on the body, explaining how consuming high-sodium diets can contribute directly to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Impact of VR on mental health

VR is currently being investigated to help people alleviate tension, fight anxiety, and create a more comfortable or calm mental state. Users wear a VR headset in a technique known as therapeutic VR and undergo a simulation designed to relax their minds. When it’s successful, people can achieve meditative abilities very quickly, without having to train to get to that level.

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