VR Emerges in Pediatrics
Little Susan is riding in the back seat of a van, playing on her mother’s iPad. She’s comfortable. Until... the van stops at the Doctor’s Office.
The moment she looks up, the kicking and screaming begins, and it only subsides once the post-shot crying begins.
A project from Hermes Pardini Labs based in Brazil hopes to change this experience forever by using virtual reality in pediatrics.
The Disadvantages: Virtual Reality in Medicine
According to the NIH Healthcare Trends for 2018...
“To have a positive and long-lasting effect on healthcare, successful innovations must provide a meaningful return on investment (ROI), whether clinical, economic, or both.”
Judging the ROI for a technology used in primary care, especially pediatric care, can be extremely difficult. Providers have to choose between multi-thousand dollar devices and softwares that may take months—even years—to fully implement and teach their staff on, let alone projecting when they would see cash flow break-even for a project.
It’s a touch-and-go process that can vary a lot, depending on the provider’s location and clientele. For instance, I’m more than happy with my $15 copay for dental cleanings, despite the medieval implements the hygenist shoves into my mouth. And despite laying in a chair that is older than my parents. Many offices are implementing laser dentistry, digital goggles, and pain-free experiences. But that copay is going to be 2 to 3 times higher than mine.
For every office on the cutting edge of technology, there's another still living in the mid-90s. But are these decked-out offices really offering anything other than minor conveniences?
Primary care hasn’t seen the major technological improvement that other fields have. It’s a matter of necessity and cost. Vaccines, blood work, weight scales, and Windows XP can cover the vast majority of visits. So, bringing on VR headsets and the applicable software might be ambitious.
The logistics of VR implementation can also be a hassle for small offices. Telling the nurse about an address change can be a herculean task sometimes But now you’re adding new headsets, compatible computers, software setup, and people on hand to walk the patients though and troubleshoot...
What can Medicinal VR bring to the table?
Let's go past the hardships and gimmicks of medical VR and talk about the real benefits.
Patient Wellness includes the extra steps past basic care to ensure comfort and holistic healing. This industry grew 10.6% between 2013 and 2015, according to The Global Wellness Institute. VR machines are positioned extremely well in this industry. Imagine bringing a hospital-ridden patient back to their home for even a few hours a day. Or exploring beautiful Icelandic mountainscapes during chemo treatment. There is measurable improvement in a patient's health when they can stay comfy and happy.
VR devices can also be relatively cheap to bring into the medical field and pediatrics. It’s estimated that 6% of US Health care, or $200 Billion, is spent annually on medical devices. And this number is only expected to rise as Chinese tariffs drive up the price of imported surgical and medical tools. Equipping the average primary health office with VR technology would be in the low thousands. And most of the applicable programs are easy enough for existing staff to manage.
Conclusion on Medical VR
VR has yet to see many critical or emergency roles, in medicine or elsewhere, and will not for the foreseeable future. Using VR to train staff or future surgeons is certainly an exciting field, but there’s not enough research to make a call yet.
Virtual reality seems to shine in Quality of Life and Patient Wellness. Investing in the comfort of your patients, especially the younger ones, can go along way in building relationships and family preference.
The concept of the multi-generation “family doctor” is fading fast, especially with the current healthcare system in the United States. The average healthcare customer gets a list of names, a bubble picture of the doctor, and an address. People may choose to stay with offices that offer new, unobtrusive conveniences that make the checkups quick and painless.
Like an exciting VR movie to draw your child’s eyes away from the vaccine needle.
The same can be said for hospice or recovery care. The implications for VR treatment with long-term stay are incredible. Taking a patient’s mind off of the physical matter can undoubtedly improve the healing process.
With its low cost of entry, rapidly growing implementations, and low upkeep, VR medical technology is going to be a mainstay in medical care. Expect to see VR medical devices in a majority of pediatric centers across the country within a couple of years.