As patients remain in isolation, meanwhile, healthcare organizations might consider launching — or increasing — VR programs for self-guided rehabilitation exercises and addressing chronic pain, says Adriaan Louw, a co-founder of the International Spine & Pain Institute and an adjunct professor at several schools, including the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“Virtual care, or at least hybrid models of in-person and virtual, will likely be commonplace going forward,” Louw says. “Forward-thinking systems should consider having a fleet of VR headsets at their disposal for a variety of applications.”
For example, a headset, once properly cleaned, could be transferred from a physical therapy patient to a mother-to-be in the labor and delivery room for a visual distraction.
AR and VR for Surgery Deliver Preparation and Efficiency
Care recipients aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit. Increasingly, VR and AR technologies are being used in operating rooms and classrooms to help surgeons prepare for the jobs ahead.
“Surgeons who are using AR and VR from the checklist perspective, who can walk through the organs they are about to operate on — this is profoundly changing the way surgeries are performed today,” Radin says.
The next wave of technology investment will focus on creating efficiencies in delivering complex care, Browd says.
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“Instead of showing an X-ray to a patient and telling them what you're going to do, we can show them a 3D model of what will happen during the surgery and what it will look like afterward,” he says, adding that the platforms’ real paradigm-shifting value will be using the technology to improve surgery while it’s in progress.
Says Browd, “Once a surgeon experiences AR intraoperatively, they have a hard time conceptualizing how they would ever stay with the status quo of today.”
Addressing Disparities to Expand VR Programs in Healthcare
Access to 5G networks and 5G-enabled devices is a major barrier to wider use of AR and VR in healthcare, says Becker, adding that general disparities in resources could put some organizations further behind the curve.
There isn’t yet a strong case for cost savings in applying AR and VR to virtual care and chronic disease management, Becker says, but that could shift as more data and research become available.
Louw believes the financial benefits will be realized.
“As payers see the better outcomes and cost savings afforded by virtual care platforms, including VR, they will likely pay for these programs, making them part of routine care plans,” Louw says.