Virtual reality tech trends & healthcare in 2022

Daniel Baldwin, CEO & Co-Founder, MARS VR Lab Inc. with Emily Brown

3-minute read

Long gone are the days when it was uncool to be a tech nerd and be interested in tech software. Now we rely on technology for almost everything in our daily lives to the point where our society would collapse without it. Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology that has started to slink into our everyday lives. The question is how and when we will see VR emerge into the mainstream population. What does that mean for businesses, government, and healthcare? My hope is to see VR in the mainstream parts of healthcare, especially in pediatric hospitals.

COVID-19 and VR

VR has fast-tracked since the start of COVID-19 thanks to the increased need for telehealth. The announcement of the metaverse has only pushed this momentum forward. VR is now becoming a trend we see that helps us utilize different aspects of our lives to make them easier and safer. This is one of the reasons I am passionate about the work we are doing at MARS VR Lab where we are creating tools for clinicians and doctors to use that will make rehabilitation safer and easier for children in powered wheelchairs. Obviously, COVID-19 has had an impact, however, one silver lining is that it has pushed us forward as a whole to try and trust remote services would have never considered using.

Before COVID-19 many people chose to go to their doctor’s appointments in person. Now we see the convince and ease in doing healthcare online in the comfort of our own homes when it is applicable. Telehealth is helping people, especially people living in rural areas have better access to healthcare. It really is an exciting time to see how VR can be applied to enhance and reinvent remote health services.

Why healthcare has been slow to adopt VR

According to Dr. Brennan Spiegel, the Director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai a non-profit medical center, VR should be an essential tool in healthcare. However, healthcare is slow at adapting, especially technology. Dr. Spiegel suggests this is because people often associate VR with just video games. I believe this to be true and amplified by the fact Clinical teams carry the burden of long hours, emotional strain, and intense pressure. To ask them to adopt a new way and to abandon familiar processes or tools that already work is a big ask. 

The divide between technology & healthcare

One of the challenges I’ve noticed working on VR innovations is getting those tools into hospitals. There is a divide between tech innovators creating technologies and partnering with hospitals to adopt innovation. It is not only time-consuming, but healthcare professionals often are also stretched too thin as it is. It can also be overwhelming to change the way we do things when we are so used to doing things a certain way for so long. This is why I think it’s important we work on this divide to help push new innovations into healthcare that can help doctors and clinicians do their jobs better and give them the most up-to-date tools they need.

VR is helping to change the world

Another great advancement in VR healthcare is using VR to train and enhance doctors’ skills. Dr. Nicholas Kmas, a professor of emergency medicine has highlighted this by pointing out VR will be used as a tool in the future to help train medical professionals. He mentions that VR will give doctors the ability to train virtually rather than watching a PowerPoint presentation giving them a better understanding of the material they are learning. Many other doctors have provided the same insight including Dr. Ahmed who was the first doctor in 2016 to perform surgery through virtual reality. These advancements in VR are just the start of how VR can help change the world.

There is no doubt VR is helping to change the world and make life easier for people, especially those who truly need it. The doubt we now face is how we make sure we close the digital divide between new technology and VR tools to help our industries like healthcare that truly need it. I’d like to think a part of this exciting change is happening because of the “uncool tech nerds” who believed in technology all those years ago.                                                                                              

If you liked what you read, follow Danny on his LinkedIn page to learn more about his work at MARS VR Lab