VR in the OR?

As our world becomes more virtualized every day, we see many unexpected fields reaping the fruits of these advancements. Since Nintendo’s Virtual Boy in 1995, which mostly provided a bulky, 32-bit gaming experience, the virtual reality market has expanded exponentially into a $2.5 billion market; leading companies like Oculus are now providing high-quality and even multiplayer gaming adventures.

However, these technologies have progressed far enough to graduate from the the simple sphere of gaming. We can see many companies supporting beneficial platforms, allowing for uses in professional fields, one of the most surprising being applications in the medical field. These range from assisting in treatment of PTSD and other phobias, to allowing surgeons to feel through live models of a patient’s body several times before opening up the patient at all. Here, we will take a look at the three medical technologies, coming from places like Silicon Valley startups and some of the top universities in the nation.

Osso VR Surgery

One technology already in med schools across the country is Osso’s VR surgical program. They claim one of the largest benefits from their technology is that it saves professors and attending physicians a lot of time. By having the professor or attending perform the surgery once on the virtual relativity machine, it allows med students and residents to rewatch and learn the operation several times over. Osso claims that surgeons who use their technology are ranked twice as high as surgeons who don’t, when ranked on the relevant Global Rating Scale. Though this technology has been rolled out at several institutions, including Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Columbia University, it has yet to be accepted as a mainstream method of learning.

Psious Phobia Treatment

Psious, a Spanish-American company, specializes in helping more than 19 million Americans overcome their phobias. Many Americans suffer a lower quality of life do to their irrational fear of everyday situations. Psious allows patients to face their fears with a lifelike simulation, while under the supervision of a trained physician. This technology allows doctors to understand the exact triggers of the phobia. With said information, doctors can accurately diagnose and treat specific parts of the illness. Through simulations of flying, getting shots, and public speaking, patients are able to face these irrational fears, integrate into society and increase their quality of life. 

Firsthand Technology

In a world that has become increasingly dependent on opioids, many have begun to search for alternative ways of pain management, due to the side effects and addiction caused by those medicines. Firsthand Technologies, based in San Francisco, are beginning to use their VR simulation, SnowWorld, to distract patients from chronic pain they may be experiencing. Firsthand claims their simulation reduces patients’ concentration on their pain by 48%, where the narcotic alternative can only do so by 10%. These results are extremely significant, seeing that there are minimal side effects from this avenue of treatment. This company has a high chance of gaining traction, due to the public’s outrage with Big Pharma and the seemingly oppressive effects of narcotic pain relief. 

While all these technologies hold promise, it could be years before any are mainstreamed and prevalent in hospitals around the nation. However, these companies provide promise for an up-and-coming generation of doctors who will learn to harness the power of these technologies in order to advance the medical world and. in turn, benefit the whole of society.