Virtual Reality Is Transforming Healthcare and Improving Patient Care
The VR industry has grown tremendously in the last decade. Virtual reality is more than just a way to enhance a sports experience at home or play games with friends. Many industries are also beginning to use it for training and even therapeutic purposes. One industry in particular it’s shaking up? Healthcare. Virtual reality has incredible potential to make people’s lives better and healthier when used in a healthcare setting.
As of 2017, the VR market in healthcare alone had grown to $976 million. Although you might not have encountered virtual reality therapy in your doctor’s office yet, you might in just a few more years. The healthcare industry is making huge shifts in the way they approach patient care with the intention of improving both outcomes and the patient’s experience. Let’s take a look at the role VR is taking in those changes.
Healthcare is Improving Quickly
Healthcare is always changing and (mostly) improving. Not too long ago, even basic sanitation and comfort were not even taken into consideration. It wasn’t until the mid-1850s that nursing reforms initiated by Florence Nightingale changed these standards, resulting in a dramatic drop in deaths from infectious diseases from 800 in 100,000 Americans per year to 50.
Today, we know how important sanitation, modern medications, and equipment are for treating patients, but American hospitals and healthcare organizations still lag behind other developed countries in outcomes. Thanks to the work of people like Nightingale, we know that a person’s environment and the care they receive, not just the medicine, can make a big difference in their ability to heal. Experts have also been exploring the inner workings of the human mind, with psychology to improve health and advance healthcare. The healthcare industry today, is pushing hospitals to provide better and better care for their patients. Technology is helping everyone overcome health issues and improve how patients are treated.
VR is the Future of Healthcare
The number of different uses for virtual reality in healthcare is almost limitless. One of the earliest applications for VR in the industry was therapy for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) patients, which has been shown to be extremely helpful for helping patients ease their symptoms and move on from trauma. Since then, VR has been used in surgical training, stroke rehabilitation, and in Parkinson’s patients to help reduce their fall risk.
One of the most exciting applications, however, which could revolutionize medicine, is the use of VR in telemedicine. People are living longer, meaning that more and more patients need healthcare each year. On top of this, war and economic inequality mean that many people have little to no access to quality medical care. With technology like AR and VR, doctors from all over the world could provide medical advice and remote treatment to those who need it the most.
Health Industries are Shifting to Improve Patient Care
In the past, healthcare in the United States has been based on volume, or fee-for-service. That means that anytime a doctor performs a test or a surgery, he or she gets paid. Unfortunately, this encourages quantity over quality, and does not incentivize hospitals and providers to promote preventative care over reactive care.
The good news is that we’re now beginning to see how problematic this model is, and the healthcare industry is shifting to improve patient care with value-based care. Major insurance companies and the federal government are beginning to direct more of their dollars to boost these efforts, with Aetna planning to increase its value-based care spending from 15% in 2013 to 45% in 2017.
Value-based care helps to keep patients out of the hospital by minimizing the number of serious or chronic health problems overall. VR can help with this goal not only by enhancing the value of telemedicine, but by providing non-invasive therapies that can help patients recover from strokes, PTSD, and many other conditions.
VR: Helping Doctors Provide Quality Care
These exciting changes in healthcare are requiring new attitudes and new technology. Virtual reality isn’t the only technology encouraging value-based care, but it will be a key tool in the future, as the population of the United States continues to age. We’ve never before had more options for healthcare, or a bigger focus on what matters most: quality patient care.