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Virtual reality: Transforming healthcare experiences for a better tomorrow

May 26, 2023
Business Affairs
Dr. Evelyn Chan
By Dr. Evelyn Chan

As a doctor, one of my most important goals is to improve the quality of care. As we continuously look for ways to improve, one technology stands out: virtual reality (VR). VR has the potential to change the way we diagnose, treat, and care for patients. VR is no longer limited to gaming and entertainment: it is now being used in healthcare to improve clinical training, patient education, and mental health therapies.

Virtual reality for pain and fear management
Drawing from my experience working with children, I conducted the world's largest clinical trials examining VR in children’s procedures in 2017 and began to implement VR in healthcare environments. We developed a method called Procedural Choreography, where we replace real-world negative and painful stimuli with positive and friendly virtual stimuli. So instead of seeing a scary needle, your child sees an inquisitive fish nibbling at their arms.

One example of a problem being solved by VR is trypanophobia, or the fear of needles. Nearly two-thirds of children and one-fourth of adults experience it. If left unaddressed, it can cause lifelong consequences such as anxiety and healthcare avoidance. This can eventually lead to delayed healthcare access and vaccine avoidance. This is where VR comes in – taking away the fear inducing environment and replacing it with something better. The adoption of VR in trypanophobia has been quick and speaks to the power of VR to transform care.

This is just one example of VR's potential in healthcare, the applications of this transformative technology extend far beyond pain management. The combination of technological advances, accessibility, and unmet needs has paved the way for VR to play a significant role in healthcare.

Beyond this, virtual reality (VR) is now being utilized as a treatment for chronic conditions, palliative medical care, and rehabilitation, improving the way that our brain processes various situations, particularly in ‘hard to treat’ populations.

Virtual reality improves the clinical experience for patients with developmental disabilities
Vaccinations and injections are not the only areas where virtual reality (VR) can be utilized in healthcare. For patients with autism, certain medical procedures, such as undergoing an MRI, can often lead to sensory overload and distress. This can result in the patient becoming uncooperative, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment.

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