Virtual Reality Technology Improves Patient Care and Special Needs
During a tour of Isla Nublar’s lab in Jurassic Park, our favorite paleontologists, chaotician, and lawyer are shown advanced scientific techniques for creating dinosaurs. One scientist was demonstrating a technique for DNA manipulation with virtual reality headgear – claiming that VR helped them find holes in the code and fill it. Whether or not that implementation was grounded in reality, it certainly foreshadowed VR’s influence within technical and scientific fields.
VR capabilities have flourished thanks to hardware improvements. The Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and even the Google Cardboard headsets have improved mobility and decreased bulky materials. Now that they are comfortable and falling into reasonable price ranges, widespread VR implementation and testing can begin. We have already seen an expected increase within the entertainment industry, but that’s not where VR technology can make a difference. Healthcare and special needs education is where innovation will thrive.
VR and Patient Care
VR/AR is making a positive impact on the healthcare industry for both professionals and patients. Limited by our physical bodies and healthcare facilities, we had reached restrictions in care that had no solutions. From reducing anxiety in patients or providing aesthetic outlets to the mobility-restricted, to improved surgery and observation enhancement, VR/AR provides new solutions to these restrictions.
Additionally, VR/AR is a major benefit to telemedicine/telehealth. Basically, the use of communication technology to practice medicine remotely, it has become a practice for reaching people in rural areas and remote locations. 90% of healthcare executives are already implementing telehealth programs, and VR/AR furthers their reach. The technology allows patients and doctors to meet with enhanced visuals and abilities which improves treatment. Think of being sick and meeting your doctor through a VR headset where they can diagnose you, all while lying in bed.
VR and Special Needs
Special needs students have unique physical/mental qualities that require a different approach to learning. 13% of public school enrollment received special education during the 2013-14 school year. That measured out to be 6.5 million students from ages 3 to 21, and it only reflected public schools. With recent technological and academic advancements, these students can be provided a higher-level and better quality of care, education, and environment.
Many special needs students find it challenging to cope with their surrounding environment. Sensory overload can overwhelm them, resulting in panic and confusion. So how are they going to handle the world and integrate in a way that doesn’t hurt them? VR, like the Oculus Rift, has been implemented to multiple benefits of the students. They can enter a virtual world or environment that has been tailored to their needs and learning curve. Through the headset, they can practice social interactions or use it as a method to calm down and find semblance.
Physically-limited students can use VR to participate in activities and see things previously unreachable to them. Things like travel and sports can be experienced through VR, freeing students of their limitations and boosting their spirits. That is the wonder of VR – it helps in tangible AND intangible ways. The implementation can be measured and improve special needs care, but the freedom and experience it provides to the students is immeasurable.
Healthcare and special needs often go hand-in-hand, but it might soon be a ménage à trois – healthcare, special needs, and VR. As the technology is implemented, new opportunities are being presented that weren’t on the radar beforehand.