How virtual reality will revolutionise healthcare

This has been the year that virtual reality (VR) has started to make its mark and it’s only set to grow. While numerous brands start to embrace the new technology, its potential to revolutionise the healthcare industry is only just beginning. In fact, Global Industry Analysts predict that the worldwide market for virtual reality in healthcare will reach $3.8 billion by 2020*.

It’s still very early days for the adoption of this technology, but developments are moving at pace and it’s clear that these advanced digital tools offer extensive opportunities to transform elements of the healthcare industry, from medical education through to the marketing of healthcare brands, be it to healthcare professionals or consumers of OTC products.


How VR can benefit your healthcare brand

There are many ways that AR/VR can be utilised to benefit your healthcare related brand, here are just some of them:

  1. A simple 360-degree video game to provide enhanced education on a product’s offering, its benefits and correct usage
  2. Trade marketing for HCPs – create virtual scenarios that can be addressed by your product or alternatively look to educate through interactive and highly visual gamification challenges. Typically, this rig would tour pharmacies or be presented at trade shows
  3. Create a disease simulation that your product/service tackles allowing VR wearers to experience first-hand what you are looking to manage
  4. Immersive educational tools such as a body fly through, for newly diagnosed patients as well as their friends and families to truly understand what the illness is and how it affects them.
  5. Use augmented reality to present what someone’s internal organs may look like based on their lifestyle or illness
  6. VR has a place in therapy also, as a distraction / relaxation tool used to reduce anxieties and pain during unpleasant procedures
  7. VR can extensively support the mental healthcare arena and therefore reducing the number of workdays lost. From tackling Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) by perhaps placing someone on a beach for 30 minutes a day, to distracting the chronic anxiety sufferer with positive meditation practices perched at the top of a mountain
  8. An augmented reality tour of a hospital for example, sharing key details on what happens where, allowing a person to explore with their phones.


Why is VR so powerful for healthcare?

The reason that VR has so much to offer comes down to the power it commands in providing immersive simulation that delivers superior education and training solutions consistent to all users.

Some top line benefits to creating VR visualisations for healthcare brands are:

  1. Faster and more cost-effective learning curve for Health Care Professionals
  2. Enhanced recall of information with improved healthcare outcomes
  3. VR visualisation can improve patient understanding and delivery of self-care
  4. Better use of OTC products
  5. Better healthcare outcomes.


360-degree video as a low-cost entry point

For those cynics who think that the price tag of the VR technology makes such advancements cost prohibitive, you only have to look at 360-degree video. Introduced by Facebook and YouTube last year, these immersive videos give you instant access to the ‘window’ of a virtual environment. It’s with this approach that the Immersive Media Initiative has been developed with academics and healthcare experts at Ohio University, Northern Arizona University, to deliver emergency room training for physicians. Suddenly, students can experience being in a trauma bay with real patients providing invaluable, low risk training in a high-risk setting. What’s more, the power of 360-degree video means the trainee can freeze the image, giving them the chance to observe any situation in more detail and assess key elements.

It’s these immersive simulations that give VR the power to become a game changer in the healthcare environment. If a healthcare professional can experience what it’s like to have a migraine for themselves, this can only enhance understanding for treatment development and marketing.

Take this a step further and the same process can be applied to conditions such as migraines, asthma and diabetes that require patients to regularly self-administer their treatment. What currently requires time consuming education, training and a reliance on consistency can – with the benefit of VR – be delivered more efficiently and effectively. Improving this patient’s self-treatment has the potential to reduce the rising admittances to hospital A & E’s – or even help prevent death.


How VR is already making its mark in healthcare

This spring saw the first live virtual surgery experience at the Royal London hospital. The impact? Instead of a couple of students peering over a surgeon removing cancerous cells from a patient’s bowels, students and observers from around the world immersed themselves into the procedure simply by wearing VR goggles. When it comes to training new procedures and life-saving treatments, this technology can train professionals with increased sophistication and reach.

And yes, it may be early days for adopting this technology, but charities are quick off the mark to understand how VR can help them in awareness and education. The UK National Autistic Society has created a VR film to show people what it’s like to live with the condition. Using Samsung Gear headsets, this has been taken on tour around UK shopping centres. Another example is for dementia where Alzheimer’s Research UK has issued a VR film to help educate the public on what it’s like to suffer from this condition by putting members of the public ‘in the shoes’ of a sufferer. Instantly, the awareness and education takes on a new meaning and so with it comes commercial benefits for the charity. It’s been widely reported that when healthy people truly experience a disease in such an immersive way, it is likely that they will have greater empathy and therefore commit to support the cause through donation.

This is just the beginning. With the new VR hardware entering the market and subsequent maturation of the VR app market place, this is the advent of some truly revolutionary healthcare tools emerging over the next year. From APP treatments, diagnostic tools and healthcare professional simulator training to healthcare professional education, we are set to see more VR technologies transform the healthcare industry.


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