Post Date: March 14, 2017

One of the biggest problems for people with serious medical conditions is being unable to leave the hospital, which can make their pain, their depression, and their feelings of anxiousness all the worse. As a result, doctors and other medical professionals have been using a wide range of tools and methods to combat the problem, with the latest example being virtual reality.

In brief, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA has been helping their patients cope with chronic pain by delivering content to them via virtual reality. Some of the content is exotic in nature whereas the rest is much more familiar in nature thanks to the 360 degree cameras brought to the patients’ homes by their families.

Unfortunately, there is no systematic data comparing the effectiveness of virtual reality to the effectiveness of its 2D counterparts at the moment because the randomized trials are still ongoing, but some interesting insights have been revealed so far.

For example, a smaller study under controlled circumstances has revealed that virtual reality devices seem to be better at alleviating pain than their 2D counterparts, as shown by a reduction of the self-reported pain score from an average 5.4 to 4.1 and 4.8. However, it is important to note that the virtual reality devices were not effective for all of the patients.

Sometimes, this was because the patients had some kind of medical condition that make it difficult for them to use the virtual reality devices, with examples including but not limited to delirium, epilepsy, and nausea. Other times, this was because the patients were uninterested in the virtual reality devices, with older people being likelier to do so than younger people.

Furthermore, the people at Cedars-Sinai have learned to be careful with the content when working with people with PTSD because even what can seem like a harmless choice has the potential to bring up traumatic memories.

Summed up, virtual reality is another excellent example of how digital health can improve outcomes for a wide range of patients. However, it is still in the early stages of adoption, meaning that it will take time to see whether its costs are worth its benefits from an economic perspective as well as work out the best ways to use its potential.