Mental health awareness means creating a world of empathy and coping with the stigma associated with it. Half the goal of this mission is achieved when the society accepts mental illness as real as physical illness. The other half is dealing with the problem and being sensitive towards the patients. We need to acknowledge mental illness, talk it out, and find solutions. Interestingly, Virtual Reality has come up as an approachable and novel method for treating types of mental health concerns. It has emerged as a viable solution for healing general stress, anxiety, tremors and phobias, depression and related disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The technology has been tested in secured and controlled environments in the form of virtual reality exposure therapy – VRET. With the prominence of VR headsets like HTC Vive, Microsoft Hololens, and VRXOne, the testing has become affordable and convenient. The scenario is far better than the mid-1990s when a head-mounted display rig would cost over $50,000. VRET has given a pragmatic direction to Telemedicine, which in turn opens doors to better healthcare conditions in rural and remote areas. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy are two prominent psychotherapeutic treatments for mental health. Under CBT, the patient attends a series of sessions where the target is to find the cause of disorder by analyzing the thought pattern of the patient and peeping into the history of phobia. The behavior of patient under challenging situations is recorded from which the source of their beliefs and notions is traced. For instance, if a patient is afraid of height, they will avoid climbing tall buildings. If they are insecure, they will avoid social gatherings. Calling them unsocial would not be a solution. It will only exacerbate the situation. CBT gives as a medium of tackling these situations and overcoming them. Exposure Therapy (ET), as the name suggests, is a treatment where the patient is exposed to such challenging situations and is gradually impelled to face them. In the real world, the exposure therapy requires extensive care and safety measures, thus making it nonviable in many situations like emulating a war zone, a crowded area, or a free fall! Also, ET goes hand in hand with CBT and is an obligatory part of it. Different kinds of health issues call for different CBTs and ETs. Another enterprise has come up with the concept of artificially intelligent virtual patients. Patients can open up to these virtual assistants whom they often trust more than doctors. Overcoming the fear of judgment, patients are able to get rid of social awkwardness. The physicians can then conduct clinical interviews and diagnostic assessments on these avatars. Facing a situation in a real therapy can be off-putting for many because the patients are usually reticent and sometimes unable to explain their behaviors. Another application of VR involves operationalizing the technology by training autistic patients and helping them gain necessary social skills. In tackling the persecutory delusions like in psychosis, VR has come out as successful again.
A Worthwhile Story Upholding The Power of Virtual Reality
Mel Slater, a professor of virtual environments shares an interesting story. “I was in one session where the guy had such a fear of public speaking that he told us about speaking at his daughter’s wedding. When we asked, ‘How old is your daughter?’, he said, ‘Three!’ He was later asked to speak in front of a virtual audience. Initially, he resisted, ‘I can’t do this, I’m turning bright red, my voice is an octave higher.’ The psychologist urged him to give it a shot and later played his video-recording asking, ‘Is your face red? No. Are you speaking an octave higher than normal? No.’ What Slater did in one afternoon would have taken 12 weeks otherwise. The result was warm and welcomed. The relevance of VR was also proven by the creation of ‘avatars’ to cope with anxiety and depression. The logic behind this simulation is rather interesting and a tad-bit twisted. The therapy happens in two stages. First of all, an avatar is created that embodies the patient who explains his problems to the psychiatrist in the therapy session. The avatar looks similar to the person and responds like him. In the next therapy session, an avatar is created of the psychiatrist and the patient embodies it. Now the psychiatrist’s avatar, maneuvered by the patient, talks to the patient’s avatar. So technically, it is the patient talking to himself. Switching roles and helping oneself – that’s the underlying idea. Why, you ask? Because we are generally too harsh and critical of ourselves. Through the virtual therapy, the patient is able to realize the problem and immerse oneself to find a solution. Here, the technology helps in the most impactful yet smooth way. Do we need to open up more about health issues? It’s a no-brainer. Of course, we do. Virtual Reality gives a chance to embrace and uplift people. We seem to have found a viable solution for improving mental health.
Imagine you’re in a foreign land. You do not understand the language of this place, nor do you seem to know the ways. You happen to be alien to the language on the road signs and the money vending machine. Anxious and panicked, your hands stumble upon the pocket and you wish to dial up the number of an acquaintance or rescuer, only to find a blank screen, totally unreadable.
This might be horrifying to you, but then you know, it’s hypothetical.
For some people, it’s the gist of their lives. The world of visually impaired people is not much different than this.
Automatic gadgets all around and yet we expect the visually challenged to hold a stick and find their way. Scientists have invented more things than any Guinness Book will be able to record. However, very less has fallen in the kitty of the blind where their lives haven’t changed much.
Smartness is a virtue to some people but these people have to have it. From environmental challenges to social apprehensions, life can anytime throw unexpected trials.
What are major challenges of the visually impaired outdoors?
Traveling in a crowded metro and walking by a lane of fast moving vehicles can be dangerous. Down to this reason, people usually accompany a friend or family member.
Also, at the home or workplace, they need to be familiar with the blockages like a table, chair, doors, and any potentially harmful obstacle. The walkways need to be clear but not every place is made that friendly.
Even the public conveniences like toilets are usually not customized for blinds. Such challenges hinder the growth opportunities of these people and limit the possibilities for progress.
The simple yet the very important access, that is the internet is not available to many who are deprived of the advanced technologies. Obtaining and maintaining a job are also far-fetched dreams for many since people usually focus on the disability than the other abilities in them.
The world has developed but not much for the blind people. A century ago, a Brit photographer had invented a white cane so that his surroundings could identify his condition. A hundred years later today, not many path-breaking projects that could prove life changing for these individuals are present.
How is Augmented Reality helping Visually Impaired?
AIRA, a platform to the rescue of visually impaired people came into existence. The brainchild of the three enthusiastic professionals, Suman Kanuganti, Yuja Chang, and blind communications professional Matt Brock, the technology is intended to bestow autonomy and independent outlook to the unsighted. Through its transformative remote assistive technology, the differently abled person is connected with AIRA’s certified agents through an Augmented Reality dashboard. The certified agents are able to see what the visually challenged person faces in real life. The agents then guide them through the way and help them make sound decisions.
The concept is so simple and beautiful, that it’s amusing why someone couldn’t come up with the idea any sooner.
The meaning behind AIRA is deeper than you would imagine. Pronounced as EYE-rah, the technology derives its name from the combination of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and RA (an ancient Egyptian mythological symbol meaning Eye of Ra. The eye of RA is a representative of protection, healing, and the power to perceive.
Aira’s Certified Agents:
Joining the team means helping people and being soulfully satisfied. The unprecedented technology helps the blind enjoy the world and travel around without the need of an assistant all the time. With a strong desire to help people, AIRA makes it easy to explore the world through its real-time request feature which provides a virtual friend. The great feature is that the wearable device can connect to any smartphone pretty easily and is durable.
While providing help whenever required and wherever, AIRA is making a bold step towards the emancipation of those who were left with a stick.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are two closely knit terms. Well, both the technologies are surprisingly identical. However, a big difference lies in the way simulations are created. Here, will discuss these technologies from the healthcare perspective.
VR is a potentially new world, AR is a tool. Both satisfy a human’s quest for immersion. You might have a big mobile screen, a much bigger television, but you’ll still fall for the grandeur and majestic experiences of Augmented Reality. Move over the 2-D visuals or 3-D graphics, here is a technology that helps you view more in your surroundings.
Besides being a technology that fascinates, it is lifesaving!
Through Augmented Reality, the users are deeply rooted in the real life, and, simultaneously, they can access the far-fetched information. That is where the future of Augmented Reality (AR) in healthcare finds scope. The technology is building its route for prophylactic, therapeutic, or cosmetic applications.
One transformative example of AR applications is in breast surgery. Breast augmentation is the most prominent cosmetic surgeries performed that help enhance an individual’s confidence. These surgeries make the breasts larger, firmer and more fuller. The journey for breast enlargement where your morale transforms from under confident to confident helps one embrace their body.
An adept cosmetic surgeon must match the expectations of the patient and Augmented Reality extends a helping hand in guaranteeing the same. In order that the patients gain maximum satisfaction out of their surgery and explain their requirements clearly, the AR technology helps them to preview their breast shape before getting under the knife. This helps the physician and the patient be on the same page and achieve the motive of the process – embracing oneself.
Dr. Kyle Song, a renowned cosmetic surgeon in the USA confirms that his surgery success rates have grown up to 90% with the patients being satisfied after the procedure, all because they can foresee themselves and explain their anxieties in real time via AR. The patients can walk through a real-time demo and be sure of their decisions, he adds.
In a similar manner, live simulation and 3D experiences help patients make the most out of their dental visits. The dynamic AR technology in the dental world helps the patients foresee their improved self where they have the perfect set of teeth and a flawless smile, who would not want to flaunt a perfect Julia Roberts smile?
The technology in healthcare helps the patients, doctors, and lab technicians to work in sync and make the best-suited dentures. The patient also gets to try out different sets in the simulated set-up. An individual finding it hard to decide whether or not to opt for a makeover can preview himself with a shining white pair of teeth and can overcome his moral impediments.
Another department of health care that AR is improving is ophthalmology. Oftentimes, while visiting an optometrist, patients find it difficult to explain their disorders. There are some who exaggerate and some who disparage their problems. Without apt diagnosis, the healing process might take longer. A new augmented reality application helps the doctors show the patients different optical disorders through simulation and identify the disorder.
The technology also improves the assistance methods about how the nurses attend patients. There is a constant challenge faced by both when the intravenous injections are not inserted properly. To combat this problem, came an invention of accurately finding the veins by means of augmented reality. A handheld scanner applied on the skin highlights the vein that multiplies the chances of injecting the syringe in the right vein.
Apart from these innovations, Augmented Reality also helps in motivating people to run. There is this technology in healthcare that creates a simulated environment making the user feel as if a zombie were following him, instinctively persuading him to run. It is recreational and motivational, both in a way, are you ready to ready to try it?
Another technology where AR in healthcare is being put to use is an application that can help the patients requiring emergency help. The automated external defibrillators or AEDs are set up by the users which can be detected by the application. People using the app can navigate and identify those near to them, requiring medical help. Thus, a crucial information delivered in minutes and a life is saved!
Understanding prescriptions, providing assistance in surgeries, studying anatomy, or using contact lenses, well, Augmented Reality in Healthcare holds the supremacy of escalating the user experience in every facet.
A trauma surgeon and associate professor at the University of Maryland, Sarah Murthi gave her views about AR in healthcare, “People don’t like their doctor to look at computers. It’s better for patients if somebody’s looking at you.” About the technology, she also says, “I think ultimately all of us hope that this will bring back more of the humanitarian component to the patient-physician relationship.”
Michael Aratow, the Chief Medical Information Officer of San Mateo Medical Center believed that augmented reality is playing a huge role in the medical field, and some of these examples of medical AR were fascinating.
Dr. Sana Farid, the Co-Founder of a Bahrain based Learning & Development company, Munfarid says, “Augmented Reality in healthcare gives the patients an option to choose the best services through comparison. With quick and easy treatments, it is possible to offer value based medical care.”
Perhaps augmented reality is one of the rarest innovations for doctors and patients, both. There’s huge potential.
Whenever and wherever there is a mention of disaster and emergency, three alarming words immediately pop up looming large over the crisis situation – Preparedness, Response and Recovery. Medical profession has to be one of the fastest growing fields in the current day and age, and like other areas, tremendous efforts, work and resources have gone into making the emergency response services quick, efficient and contained. With that context fresh in mind, listen to this. Immersive VR Education has created the 1st ever emergency response program in the world, ER VR – a virtual reality medical training simulation designed for medical professionals and trainees. Intended to offer reduced time and greater readiness for emergency response services, the program is an immediate and exceptional guide for medical teams. The program can also switch to an alternative fully educational mode for immersive learning environment as well. Since emergency care can be both expensive and even inaccessible in remote locations, this application will be an invaluable asset for emergency response teams everywhere. Called RCSI Medical Training Sim, this app combines the best of both, cutting-edge medical research and latest Virtual Reality gaming tech.
A renowned virtual reality development company, Immersive VR Education has many remarkable achievements under their belt such as the Apollo 11 VR – experiencing mankind’s historical first step on the moon from start to finish, relive the events of the landing, Apollo 11 is the winner of “Time Warner Future of Storytelling Award” in a tough competition of over 300 submissions – and Titanic VR – traveling through history to relive the events of this formidable incident . But Engage stands out as the principal and award-winning development by Immersive VR Education. A multi-user platform for teachers and students to travel and communicate in a safe virtual environment allowing up to 30 users to be in a single private lesson or meeting, from any location in the world. The program comes with a host of amazing features such as virtual field trips, projected presence, interactive whiteboards, and streaming media.
Immersive VR Education are indeed providing the next- level VR technology in education and their immersive programs have a great value for learn-by-doing technology. It is my pleasure to announce that medical students in the Middle East will soon be able to gain from this technology and learn about the emergency response training in VR.
Indeed, it has been a marvelous experience meeting with like-minded, dedicated and highly innovative professionals in the VR community. David Whelan, the CEO for Immersive VR Education and formally the editor and chief of Virtual Reality Reviewer and a founding member of the Virtual Reality Awards. David is indeed an inspiration for VR entrepreneurs everywhere, being a pioneer and one of the leaders in VR development, it is an honour for me to be associated to him. His vision for VR education will surely bring bountiful opportunities and benefits for our VR communities worldwide.
In the form of immersive and glueing 3-D simulations, the methods of examination, treatment, and operation of diseases in healthcare are growing. Virtual Reality has taken the centre stage. The technology is being accepted today for patient gains.
There are some segments in the healthcare industry where a lot more is needed than a physician’s treatment and advice – patient experience. A major part of the patient satisfaction revolves around pain management. This is the first factor that a person under treatment checks to see if there have been results from the treatment. Pain is managed by most of the hospitals and healthcare centres but how, is the question.
Though healthcare has improved substantially, yet the most common resolution to pain management is a moderate to heavy dose of analgesia. From aspirin and acetaminophen to morphine, these analgesics may cause side-effects like irritation, dizziness, addiction, rashes, hives, etc. Treating pain is still a challenge faced by many and it still remains a major blot on disease management. It gradually unravels and proves to be a setback. Increased pain sensitivity and decreasing pain relieving are symptoms that occur with time. Chronic pain might also cause disability and it is very prominent in diseases like cancer, migraine, arthritis, etc. Hence, the need for a replacement and Virtual Reality fits the job well. Virtual Reality headgears can take a person and divert their mind to a completely different environment.
Usually patients turn to doctors because of unbearable pain and Virtual Reality actually mellows down the pain and anxiety by relaxing the nervous system.
Companies like AppliedVR are toiling to stand out of the masses to improve the patient experience.
AppliedVR is a VR platform designed for clinical settings. There are many diagnosis processes, operations, and treatments where patients undergo scary and painful methods. To relieve their pain and subdue the painful emotion, the company arranges a Virtual Reality backed treatment where the patient is provided with a headgear to involve their mind while the doctor performs a procedure or any other medical treatment. The company uses an engaging way to manage the pain. The patients can interact with a simulated environment that relaxes them. This use of VR can be applied pre-treatment, or post-treatment, or even during the treatment, whatever is the most recommended by the physician.
Labour Pain – When a trial was conducted under the supervision of Ralph Anderson, a gynaecologist, it opened the possibility to redefining childbirth [Article]. Erin Martucci was her patient and a pregnant lady then at the time of this research. When it was finally the time for her to bear the excruciating labour pain, her gynaecologist came up with an idea of trying Virtual Reality to manage the labour pain rather than resorting to anesthesia. A pre-programmed Virtual Reality headset was given to her during her delivery wherein she was calmed down by the polite instructions like ‘focus on the birds’, “remember to breathe”. As soon as her headset was removed, she could see her baby making its initial appearance in the world. The whole experience turned out pleasant for her, as was supposed to be. As reported, Virtual Reality facilitates 82% pain reduction in patients who used the technology against those who didn’t [Report].
“Having that voice take me through the breathing and being in touch with your body and that focal point helped so much more” – Erin Martucci
Chemotherapy – One of the worst medical procedures to go through because of the excruciating pain. As per the NCBI data, 82% of the patients undergoing chemotherapy would want to go through the medical procedure with VR [Report]. As per these patients, the session seemed of shorter duration because of the technology and the chemotherapy was more tolerable because of the distractions from pain created by VR. The treatment was affordable, easy to accommodate, and reduced pain in the patients substantially.
Burn Wounds – In a physical therapy session for the patients suffering from burn wounds, the patients were subjected to the ‘SnowWorld’ Virtual Reality session. The study was conducted to observe the effects of Virtual Reality when supplemented with analgesic technique for paediatric child burns. The subjects purported a decrease in cognitive pain upto 44%, 27% decrease in sensory pain, and 32% reduction in affective pain [Study]. Through wound care treatment, Virtual Reality has proven results of decreasing pain and unpleasantness during burn care treatment. A study conducted on 19 veterans with burn injuries confirmed the same [Link].
Virtual Reality proves to be a good analgesia without any side-effects. This is something the patients can continue without any harm. The technology is pretty affordable and given the ability to reuse the equipment makes it even more beneficial. The technology is seen as a replacement to opioids – the painkillers usually recommended to patients to reduce discomfort and pain. VR can prove life-saving for patients who have benefitted a lot from it. Like Ms Vasquez, to whom the opioids made no sense. She found relief after months, just because of Virtual Reality [Case Study].
Munfarid is a Middle East organization bringing state-of-the-art, cutting-edge Virtual Reality Experiences. VRXOne – The Virtual Reality program by Munfarid facilitates a gateway to an imaginative world where nothing is impossible and any disease is curable. The organisation works hard to take Virtual Reality a step closer to people in need.
From women enduring labour pains to a patient undergoing chemotherapy, every pain can be undermined with the help of Virtual Reality. Pain is subjective, but Virtual Reality is an undisputed solution.
t took a lot of time for the Virtual Reality to evolve over the last years. The technology that gained momentum in the 1990s slowed down for over two decades. Howbeit now is the time of the big developments as every company aims for extensive digitization. The widespread use of Virtual Reality in gaming is quite evident, but do you know the new trail technology is used to treat phobias and medical disorders!
Virtual Reality Applications in Healthcare
The healthcare sector forms the most important one for the human race. Development and inevitable research is both – obligatory and binding.
1) The technology is being used widely for the treatment for rehabilitation of the war struck people in different countries. The retired officials for wars, war prisoners, and the mobilized citizens of the country can feel at peace through the Virtual Reality therapy. It is being used by many governments to reduce the mental phobias and dreadedness in the lives of war-torn people.
2) The virtual reality for medical training brings a lot of powerful features. People remember what they see than what they are being told. The visual representation appeals to a person because he feels promoted and triggered to react. A lot more exciting is when the same time and effort is put to the virtual trainings. With the 3D 360º cameras in institutions, isn’t it fair enough to study the medical phenomena when the physicians have no scope of error?
3) There is an uncomfortable gap between the number of emergency situations created and the extent of preparedness in most of the medical institutions. This means we need to focus more on how to deal with emergency situations & stay alarmed and informed about the same. Imagine a situation where a person collapses out of the blues on a deserted street and there is a medical practitioner on the road. Chances are, the medical intern might be able to provide first-hand aid. However, in case of a serious emergency, do you think this person will be able to take the charge? Sadly, our medical schools have limited opportunities. The relieving news is that many colleges, like the Imperial college in London, are actually using the Virtual Reality training to make the doctors of tomorrow experienced while being freshers. Isn’t that great?
4) The Virtual Reality applications have surfaced which give a new dimension to training & soft skill development. The virtual reality in surgery operated by the leading doctors can be live streamed to the trainees. When there is lack of mentors that are accessible, these training videos are helpful in promoting comprehensive learning. Such applications can be used by hospitals and diagnosis centers to track the patients and reduce the documented work.
From training the interns to testing the medical equipment, the Virtual Reality in medicine and surgery allows a safe environment to build a realistic training atmosphere.