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Virtual Reality: Revolutionising Medical Training and Treatment

By Henry Duah

Imagine medical practitioners being able to repeatedly practice a complex surgical procedure, refining their skills without ever stepping into an operating room. Virtual reality (VR) makes this possible, transforming medical training and treatment by immersing professionals and patients in highly realistic, interactive environments. VR technology is not only enhancing the education of medical practitioners but also providing innovative therapies for patients, from pain management to mental health treatment.

In medical training, VR enables students and professionals to engage in realistic simulations of surgical procedures, emergency responses, and patient interactions. These virtual scenarios provide a risk-free environment where skills can be honed and complex procedures can be practised repeatedly until mastery. Moreover, VR’s detailed 3D visualisations of the human body enhance the understanding of anatomy and physiological processes, making learning more engaging and effective. 

In the realm of treatment, VR offers innovative solutions for pain management, mental health, and rehabilitation. VR therapies provide immersive distractions that help reduce pain and discomfort during procedures or chronic pain episodes. Additionally, VR-based rehabilitation programs create motivating environments for patients recovering from injuries or surgeries, promoting better engagement and faster recovery. 

In this innovation snapshot we highlight startups using VR technology for the benefit of the healthcare industry.

Osso VR (USA, 2016)

Osso VR is a surgical training and assessment platform that provides medical device companies and healthcare professionals with innovative methods to share, practice, and learn new skills and procedures. Their virtual reality technology offers training experiences that accelerate learning and drive adoption, with a focus on inspiring healthcare professionals at scale. Osso VR’s platform includes a vast orthopaedic virtual reality training library and solutions for early career healthcare professionals, supported by analytics for objective assessment and coaching. Multiple peer-reviewed studies have shown that Osso VR accelerates learning, improves procedural competency, and enhances knowledge retention compared to traditional training methods.

FundamentalVR (UK, 2012)

FundamentalVR is a company in the field of virtual reality (VR) surgical simulation and training. Their platform, Fundamental Surgery, offers innovative solutions that drive MedTech commercial success by providing immersive VR training programs to accelerate the adoption and safe use of medical devices, surgical robotic systems, and pharmaceutical products. With features like HapticVR for realistic touch sensations, StandaloneVR for procedural rehearsal, and CollaborationVR for virtual collaboration spaces, FundamentalVR aims to transform the surgical training landscape and improve overall performance in the healthcare industry.

AppliedVR (USA, 2015) 

AppliedVR is a company dedicated to addressing the public health crisis of intractable health conditions such as chronic pain through immersive therapeutics. With over 100 million Americans affected by chronic pain, the company aims to provide an alternative to surgery and prescription medication, which can carry health risks such as adverse side effects and addiction. By applying scientific rigour to virtual reality therapeutics, AppliedVR offers prescription-based solutions supported by clinical evidence to help patients manage chronic pain from the comfort of their homes. With a focus on retraining the brain to overcome pain, AppliedVR’s products have reached thousands of patients in homes, hospitals, and across multiple countries.

Oxford Medical Simulation (USA, 2017)

Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS) provides a powerful learning platform that combines healthcare education and competency assessment through dynamic virtual reality simulations. Their platform offers immersive scenarios that bridge theoretical knowledge with practical clinical experience, allowing users to practice anytime, anywhere. With a focus on self-directed learning and collaboration with expert educators, OMS delivers adaptive and standardised clinical experiences to optimise performance. Trusted by world-leading institutions in nursing, medicine, and allied health, OMS aims to enhance clinical education, training, and assessment at scale while reducing costs and improving learner outcomes. 

The integration of VR into healthcare promises to revolutionise the healthcare industry by improving patient outcomes, reducing costs, and enhancing patient satisfaction. Startups like Osso VR, FundamentalVR, AppliedVR, and Oxford Medical Simulation are at the forefront of this transformation, demonstrating the vast potential and innovative applications of VR technology in medical training and treatment. As these technologies continue to evolve, they will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping the future of healthcare, making it more interactive, effective, and patient-centred.

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