What innovators are doing in VR healthcare and how the adoption of standards is paramount for patients and clinicians

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

2.5 minute read

Virtual reality video games, although not considered new, have paved the way for VR innovations in other industries such as education and healthcare.

Over the past few years, many VR companies have been working with hospitals and medical professionals to adopt VR into healthcare practices. The expansion and uses of VR in healthcare are just beginning and soon will become mainstream healthcare for many treatments.

According to Globe News Wire, the VR healthcare market is expected to grow to 1.53 billion dollars by the year 2026. This is likely because VR is expanding the ways we think and treat patients. Many healthcare professionals focused on VR treatment have reported promising results when patients use VR from pain management to reducing anxiety. One example is VR/AR technology being used in ambulances which allows doctors to provide and aid paramedics in real-time while the patient is transported to the hospital. Not only is this providing better care to people, it is also a life-saving tool that would not be possible without virtual reality.

Another example is the treatment and rehabilitation for mobility issues for seniors, disabled children, and adults who can benefit significantly from VR healthcare. Much like the work, we do at MARS VR Lab by using gamified VR for pediatric patients learning to drive a power wheelchair. Other companies such as XRhealth, MXT Reality, and REAL System are using VR treatments and apps for brain injuries and diseases for adults. These treatments can truly have a positive impact on patients and clinicians.

One recent study, that was done by XRHealth, showed how VR exercises monitored by clinicians helped 86.67% of patients with their physical treatment. When our product hits the market in early 2023, we at MARS VR Lab will be able to provide real-time feedback to clinicians who can then create a more tailored treatment for their patients. Not only is this a game changer, but it is also helping patients get the best possible care both in the hospital and at home.

In addition to the VR companies creating rehabilitation treatments, hospitals are focused on enhancing surgical training using VR. Companies like PrecisionOS are working to bring these solutions to help doctors receive important hands-on training and improve the accuracy and efficiency of surgeries.  This will help new doctors receive more training before they enter the OR, or help seasoned doctors learn new skills in a safe and low-risk way.

The importance of VR adoption and standards

Although the advancement of VR in healthcare is exciting and promising it does not come without challenges. This is why adopting VR standards in the medical industry is critical to advancing our already overworked healthcare institutions. These issues were identified back in 2017 by the VRAR association. Fast forward to the end of 2022 and these roadblocks are still very real and prevent healthcare professionals and VR companies from getting augmented reality devices into hospitals.

Identifying the issues

Some roadblocks will have to be solved by hospitals, governments, and VR companies to effectively implement VR. These include the lack of funding in hospitals for new technology, limitations to the technology, lack of knowledge, regulation, policy coverage, and insurance, to name a few. 

Although I have mentioned it before, it should not be understated that adopting new technology into an industry like healthcare is already too slow. This brings its own set of challenges that overlap with the limitations of adopting VR technology. This is why best practices and standards have become increasingly important as new VR companies create solutions to help healthcare professionals.

Moving forward

What is paramount with these challenges is to support healthcare professionals and the industry as much as possible with the adoption of VR. The last thing VR innovators want to do is create more problems for doctors and nurses. One of the major ways I see a solution is by creating best practices and guides to not only speed up the process of implementation but to make it as painless and efficient as possible.

Medical professionals at VR health conferences and around the world have expressed that there is nothing worse than receiving new technology for it to sit in the corner of a hospital room not getting used. Therefore, VR companies soon if not already will have to start creating best practices with the help of governments to help aid medical professionals. This will ensure the success of real and life-changing advances in VR healthcare.

Virtual reality has already proven to be life-changing in the medical field and for many patients globally. What is important now is to continue pushing exciting innovation into hospitals with more direction to keep the momentum going.

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