Virtual Reality: Redefining the Healthcare Industry
With all that technology has to offer, shouldn’t there be some way that technology would make patient care easier?
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For people with more serious conditions, the horror of being cut open in a room full of strangers is a desperate chance at a better life.
It makes you wonder…
With all that technology has to offer, shouldn’t there be some way, in at least some part of our healthcare domain, that technology would make things easier?
I’m not talking about the more conventional forms of technology, like high-tech machines in the hospitals; I am more interested in creating ease for the patients — like the kind of easiness advanced prosthetics provide.
Something wearable and painless that removes the need to swallow pills and undergo procedures.
Well, in fact, there is. Let me show you.
The Promise of VR in HealthCare
Ever since the concept of VR dawned on men, it felt more exciting just to think about VR than what the technology actually had to offer. But, in the past couple of years, VR has really started to deliver on the promise. How?
I came across these low vision aids that enhance vision for the legally blind people. I'll elaborate later on what they are.
It hit me then… VR isn’t just fun and games. I researched and found a billion different applications of VR where it was actually changing lives and improving the quality of life for a lot of distressed people.
As a substitute for painkillers, anxiety pills, learning aids, seeing aids, the possibilities could be endless.
Let me tell you about some great startups that are making it big with VR.
IrisVision – Bringing the Focus Back in a Blurry Life
These are the low vision aids I was talking about earlier. Low vision is a sight condition that comes in many forms. It could either be from a disease, like macular degeneration, or some injury, like optic nerve damage. People having low vision are not completely blind.
They can see so little, they require human intervention or some help to go about their daily lives. The cherry on top being that this condition is most common in old people, which is another challenge in itself.
The alternatives for such people entail expensive eye surgeries and medication, which, when continued for longer periods of time, introduces new problems and diseases as side effects.
IrisVision is a California-based startup that came up with this VR solution. With Dr. Frank Werblin and eye specialists at Johns Hopkins, IrisVision concocted a technology-based, painless, and non-invasive solution.
By using a VR headset, Samsung’s GearVR, and a Smartphone, they created a low vision aid that enhances vision. There are other similar devices in the market as well, but what intrigued me the most was the IrisBubble view. It gives a great zoom in/out feature without the person losing contextual awareness of the environment. Meaning, when a person zooms in on a blur spot in their vision, they can still see everything around and get a ‘telescope’ view.
I have found people crying with joy after wearing IrisVision and seeing their grand child’s face for the first time. I’d say that defies expectations of what VR normally brings to the table.
Virtual Reality for the Autistic – The Miracle of Floreo
There was an incident in 2017, where the police shot the caregiver of an autistic man, thinking the autistic person was a danger to the other man. That is the extent of how confusing it can be dealing with people in the Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Estimates from Autismspeaks predicted that 1 in every 59 children would be autistic in the year 2018. A 15 percent rise in numbers than the previous years. That is a huge audience and the numbers seem to be increasing. With no cure and only medication to help sooth some of the related symptoms, life is a huge challenge for such people and the people who take care of them. Behavioral therapy works to some extent, and so, leveraging that, two parents created Floreo, a VR app that is specially designed to help ASD children learn and grow. It provides a supplementary teaching method of social and communication skills that help ASD patients understand and express themselves better.
They have created great learning materials categorized by travel safety, police safety, street crossing, gesture and imitation and so much more. All extremely important pain areas for people with autism.
Kill the Pain, Not Yourself – THE VBI Platform
Almost every one of us has had to deal with some kind of pain daily, figuratively and literally.
The more painful thing about painkillers is that the pain numbs out for some time, but then comes back even stronger. Every time you increase the dosage, your body becomes immune and requires more and more.
An article in Healthline showed alarming stats on the escalating opioid crisis. It suggested that around 100 million people had chronic pain and they weren’t getting the relief they needed and were looking for alternatives.
Unfortunately, finding “other alternatives” mostly results in a different form of painkillers and, hence, more addiction. The Guardian reported that around 150 people were dying, daily, in a crisis of opioid painkillers.
That is where Virtually Better (VBI) comes in. They are a VR platform is dedicated to creating evidence-based Virtual Reality environments for stress/pain management, substance use disorders, skills development, PTSD, and phobias.
The great thing about this is it gives the clinicians and therapists more control overtreating their patients and monitoring their progress. They have a range of products like BRAVEMIND, designed for soldiers coping with PTSD, a whole phobia suite, and a lot more. By using vibrotactile feedback and scent machines, the whole experience is as good as a real-life encounter.
Patients are put in scenarios that relate to their situation, and without administering any form of medicine, calm down and have reported a good deal of relief.
From painful to painless — that is a great journey to take.
The gaming and entertainment throne has been well conquered by Virtual Reality. I think it is safe to say VR is ubiquitous. Think about anything, and you will find a VR app for that. Be it games, entertainment, healthcare, education, or even industrial applications, there is a lot of room in the VR app development industry.
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