Virtual reality is quickly becoming a much-touted tool for providers, and as it uses become better known and tested, it’s likely the healthcare VR market will grow exponentially in the next few years.
Indeed, the technology is already begin used by surgeons in Texas and London prior to and during surgeries. Meanwhile, providers are also using the tech for patients as a way to improve pain management. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, for instance, has recently run a pilot that equips patients with Samsung Gear Oculus VR headsets that feature soothing videos and games as a way to better manage pain without medication.
“The opioid crisis doesn’t just cost money, it also costs lives,” said Dr. Brennan Spiegel, director of health services research at Cedars-Sinai, in a press release. “We need to find ways to stem the tide without relying entirely on medicines. Health technology, like virtual reality, has tremendous potential to improve outcomes while saving costs.”
VR certainly has promise for helping keep patients' minds off of pain. And while it’s far from the only use case, distraction is a major aspect of what VR headsets can offer patients.
Stanford Health Taps VR to Reduce Anxiety in Child Patients
As part of its new main building chock full of innovative technologies, Stanford Hospital’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford has on hand virtual reality headsets for patients that are often notably anxious: children.
“When kids come to the hospital, it’s one of the most stressful experiences of their lives,” says Dr. Sam Rodriguez, an anesthesiologist with Stanford Children’s Health.
To mitigate that, the organization is using virtual reality to help decrease anxiety and perceived pain during minor procedures, such as wound cleanings, IV insertions and endoscopies. That also helps to reduce the use of anesthesia on children.
“We want to do everything we can do make sure they get a good experience with fun games and cool technology,” Rodriguez says.
The use of VR is the brainchild of Rodriguez and Dr. Tom Caruso, another anesthesiologist, who co-direct the hospital’s Childhood Anxiety Reduction through Innovation and Technology program.
“When children put on the goggles, they enter another world,” says Stanford Children’s Health Chief Medical Information Officer Natalie Pageler. “It distracts them and allows them to tolerate much more intervention than they would normally without anesthesia.”