A New (Virtual) Reality
Marketed primarily as a gaming technology, virtual reality (VR) has permeated various industries like the healthcare sphere where it has become a growing digital trend implemented in hospitals. VR uses computer-generated simulation to create a highly immersive three-dimensional environment that provides individuals an interactive experience where they can manipulate objects and perform certain tasks. VR has the potential to disrupt the way patients manage pain and surgeons practice procedures through therapeutic treatment and surgical training, which are just two of the areas where VR is being tested.
Proposed as an alternative to prescribing potentially addictive pharmaceutical medications, therapeutic VR focuses on reducing and managing pain. A study done by the Cedars-Sinai health system gave patients with various medical conditions Samsung Gear Oculus headsets with access to 21 different immersive experiences like guided meditation to assess the effectiveness of VR for pain management. While quantifiable effects on reducing the use of pharmaceuticals due to the VR treatment remain unknown, the study did find that VR can foster engagement and help distract patients from their physical pain.