Virtual Reality Is Already Changing Healthcare

With a pediatric surgeon successfully using Google Cardboard to “see” the surgery before actually performing the amazing surgery, makes it worth looking at the impact virtual reality could have on healthcare in 2016 alone. As CNN reported, a Florida pediatric cardiac surgeon performed a first-time surgery using a Google Cardboard,

Muniz bought a Google Cardboard device and had been playing with it in his office…Using an app called Sketchfab, Muniz downloaded images of Teegan’s heart onto his iPhone and showed them to Burke…With the goggles, it was possible to move around and see the heart from every angle — to almost be inside the heart checking out its structure

Burke looked through the Google Cardboard, and visualized what he could do to fix Teegan’s heart.
The night before Teegan’s surgery, Burke lay in bed imagining her heart based on the Google Cardboard image, mapping out the precise steps he would take in the operating room.

The fact that a doctor could generate highly accurate high-quality 3D images from home, really shows just the tip of what will be possible using virtual reality technology. It does seem as if there will be some immediate benefit in using virtual reality to improve the quality of healthcare training. If skilled surgeons like the doctor in the article can improve their process from VR, it would definitely benefit those learning how to do procedures. There are even entire journals, Journal of Surgical Simulation,  now dedicated to simulations including virtual reality.

As StatNews reports, “By bringing together interactive designers, engineers, and medical professionals, labs around the world are beginning to test the fit and function of stents, artificial hips, and other medical devices and implants on virtually reproduced organs throughout the body. They can also bring up models of an actual organ in a specific patient to practice a procedure before ever stepping foot in an operating room.” An additional way virtual reality will be improving patients knowledge and understanding of medical procedures before they are actually performed.
Companies like Surgical Theatre are already announcing ways to improve the surgical experience with their 3D Virtual Reality Navigation and Guidance software which offers surgeons a unique perspective on the procedure it also offers an excellent option for the patient in that they can now see the affected area and how the procedure is going to take place.

As Surgical Theatre explains in a press release, there is no better way to educate the patient than to put on a VR headset and “walk through the patient’s anatomy,” stepping into the body and touring the treatment plan. The user is immersed in the anatomical structures in which they are surrounded; the user can literally stand between arteries and the brain tissue. Users can tour multiple-fused data sets, walk into the space between the nerves and pathology, grasp the surgeons’ plans regarding the approach and the margins to preserve surrounding eloquent functional structures, and so on.


Virtual reality is not only being used to help the patient experience but has also been used previously to train doctors. A joint project between Ohio State University’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD) and the Wexner Medical Center centered around training doctors on the patient interview process. By using a combination of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and avatars the goal is to create a more consistent learning environment that students can learn in. Rather than having variations based on actors day to day the department is now able to script repeatable interactions to facilitate learning for the next generation of doctors.


In one report, Merging technology and clinical research for optimized post-surgical rehabilitation of lung cancer patients, (that’s a mouthful) researchers setup a trial where they had lung-cancer patients go for a virtual walk everyday using a Wii and the Wii Plus Balance board. While this is not immersive in the walk most of us are thinking about virtual reality it shows how wide ranging the virtual world can be. The median age in this study was 65, including some participants that had the technical support issue of their TVs were so old they didn’t have any inputs to connect the Wii too!

Not only did the cancer patient participate in it, their pets did too.

Likewise, we used pets to our advantage since the Wii allowed for creation of dogs and cats we showed participants how they could create and name their pet in their virtual environment making their exercise experience more enjoyable [(27), p408]. We learned this in one of our home visits when the nurse told the participant “now let’s go for a walk!” and the family pet ran to the nurse.

The researchers had to go above and beyond in convincing board members to allow it to even happen. With there being concerns about the safety of participants. We would like to extend our thanks to this unnamed board member for taking a stand in the name of progress.

Fortunately, an influential, elderly community board member fought for our intervention stating that a spotter was too intrusive for families; he stood up and said, “I’m tired of you young folks telling us what we can and can’t do. We will never have a solution to this problem if we don’t start somewhere.” In fact, when arguing that the twoinch platform concern was unwarranted, this board member stated “What do you want to do, bubble wrap us?

Based on a new report from Accuracy Research, Global Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Healthcare Market Analysis & Trends – Industry Forecast to 2020.

The Global Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Healthcare Market is poised to grow at a CAGR of around 17.8% in the next 5 years to reach approximately $1.45 billion by 2020.

With a price tag starting at $4,200 for the report, we’ll just have to take their word for it.

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