This post is about applying technology and software rather than pills to treat patients. It focuses on how Virtual Reality (VR) can be used to do this. I want to start the story not with buzzwords, but with numbers.
The market for VR in healthcare is projected to grow from $628.0 million in 2022 to $6.20 billion by 2029, at a CAGR of 38.7%
This is impressive and is clear evidence that increasing numbers of healthcare practitioners are adopting VR technologies.
I will first briefly outline VR technology. When using VR, a person gets immersed in a 360° illusion of an artificial environment. This is achieved by wearing a headset, a helmet, or another portable device. These portable devices are connected to hardware (e.g., a PC), on which the VR-software is run. There is a constant exchange of information between the software and a portable device(s). Animated images from the software are transmitted to the helmet or a headset which contains a stereoscopic screen and a set of sensors, including motion trackers. These pick up user movements and send signals to the software, which adjusts the images and transmits them in real time. This live data exchange creates the illusion of presence.
Healthcare scientists developed the idea of using immersion and the related effect of presence for curing specific disorders. As a leader in healthcare software development, EffectiveSoft knows how to reap the benefits of technology trends for diagnosis and treatment of various diseases. Concerning virtual reality in healthcare, it has proven to offer many treatment possibilities, including pain management for phantom and chronic pains, is one area where VR has shown promise.
Amputees often experience the illusion that a missing limb is still there and is causing pain. This means that, alongside the pain involved in rehabilitation, patients must deal with their brain’s confusion about the loss of a limb. Although the exact nature of phantom pain has not been established, a likely explanation has been proposed. Tactile representations of different body parts are arranged like a map in the brain. When the brain programs a movement, it expects feedback from a certain area. When a limb is missing, there is a mismatch between the feedback the brain expects when it programs a limb movement and the feedback that it actually receives.
New VR-based technology can help patients suffering from phantom limb pain by virtually giving them their limbs back. During the treatment, patients play computer games using the VR-devices, such as headsets. In these games, the amputees must use their limbs to navigate in a virtual world. The position of the limbs is tracked by motion sensors. Motion tracking of the residual limb is used to create and control a missing limb. The software adds a near-to-real image of the missing limb, which is used by the premotor cortex and the amputee “feels” the amputated limb. Feeling the phantom limb tricks the brain and eliminates the mismatch.
Alongside phantom pain management, VR-based training can facilitate the acquisition of prosthetic control skills in amputees.
Another important application of VR in healthcare is chronic pain relief and/or treatment. This can help to reduce opioid use, which involves a significant risk of patients’ becoming dependent.
So far, VR has successfully helped both adult and pediatric patients to withstand acute pains. However, recent clinical studies combined with cases of practical application have also shown impressive results in patients with chronic pains. These results have led to the increasing popularity and acceptance of VR technology in healthcare by the medical community. The FDA has already recognized several software products for VR-based chronic pain management. The technology involved in these methods incorporates another strategy for pain relief — cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Contrary to conventional CBT, VR therapies can be used at home. With the help of headsets, patients are immersed in an artificial environment which distracts them from their pain and gradually builds a foundation for pain relief. However, according to Geoffrey I. Gold, director of the pediatric pain management clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, VR pain products provide far more than distraction. “It’s like an endogenous narcotic providing a physiological and chemical burst that causes you to feel good. It’s different from reading a book or playing with a toy. It’s a multisensory experience that engages a person’s attention on a much deeper level.”
One VR-based pain product, EaseVrx, follows a well-known principle that suggests chronic pains are more about a mental association of pain with stress, anxiety, and isolation than about the physical sensation. It combines VR and CBH. After an 8-week course, patients learn how to avoid stress, use breathing and other techniques to control pain levels. They also learn further coping skills to approach their pain management.
VR is a new area of the healthcare market and promotes the management of pains in a new way. The first results demonstrate that VR is a promising alternative to drugs and is less likely to lead to addiction or side effects. VR therapies can help patients break the cycle of pain and stress and learn to think themselves well.
The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.