Using virtual reality to improve the patient experience

 In Medical Product Design

Making improvements to the patient experience can greatly benefit the overall treatment outcome. Many clinics are using cutting-edge technology to enhance the level of care. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is partnering with AppliedVR to use therapeutic virtual reality in the hospital's Surgery and Orthopaedic Center, reported HIT Consultant. This move makes Cedars-Sinai among the first hospitals to implement scalable virtual reality technology, and the medical facility will be setting up pilot projects with it in other departments.

Pain RelieVR
The program Cedars-Sinai will use is called Pain RelieVR, designed to use interactive VR games to keep patients occupied during treatments. The games are highly immersive and help to take the focus off of any anxiety or discomfort they may feel in a medical environment. Designed alongside psychologists, the games help to transport the patient from a hospital to a more relaxing place, teaching mindfulness and reducing any stress about the treatments. 

"The games help to transport the patient from a hospital to a more relaxing place."

Treating amputees
Another way that virtual reality can improve patient outcomes is helping amputees deal with the pain and discomfort from losing a limb. A recent Big Think article reported that researchers at Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology have been experimenting with VR to help treat "phantom limb syndrome," an ailment that occurs when recent amputees continue to feel burning, itching and tingling where their limbs used to be. The brain continues to send signals to the missing limb, and it can be a serious issue for someone who's already dealing with a missing limb. 

The researchers attached electrodes to the end of the missing limb and let the patients control this "limb" in a virtual reality simulation. For example, one patient who had lost an arm used a VR program to simulate driving a car with this missing limb. During the course of this treatment, the patient reported feeling less pain or discomfort.

The 'age of utilization'
Matthew Stoudt, CEO and co-founder of Applied VR, said in a recent press release, "VR is entering an 'age of utilization' in health care, with hospitals and surgery centers seeking new ways to increase patient satisfaction, better manage pain, and reduce hospital stays." As health care shifts to concentrate on the overall patient experience, tools like Pain RelieVR can help make treatments more effective by improving patient satisfaction. 

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