The global market for VR is Healthcare is expected to reach $3.8 billion by 2020, driven by technology advancements in healthcare IT, expanding applications in to diverse medical disciplines and increasing demand for rehabilitation and simulation training. VR technology continues to gain visibility as a potent diagnostic tool in the form of fully immersive 3D simulation for clinicians in the treatment of phobias, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and severe pain in burn victims.

This specific focus on mental health, suggests truly immersive VR could be instrumental in treating anxieties and fears – from acrophobia (heights) to arachnophobia (spiders) to glossophobia (public speaking) – by carefully exposing patients to digital recreations of the things they fear most.

Research has also been done by National Health Institutes in the US to determine how VR could improve the lives of cancer patients in palliative care. VR techniques represent not only an enhanced human-machine interface, but also an enhanced human communication technology. VR technology may also be used to help patients accept their disease. The mental state of a patient in the terminal stage of cancer changes step by step from denial of cancer, hope for a new treatment for cancer, suspicion of medical treatment, uneasiness regarding their future life, irritation, depression, and acceptance or despair. Conclusions from this research have indicated that VR technology can be applied to palliative medicine (1) to support communication between the patient and others, (2) to provide psychological support to treat neurosis and help to stabilize the patient’s mental state, and (3) to actually treat cancer.

Fully immersive 3D operating room simulations could be used to train young doctors in real life situations, helping them to gain experience, become more confident, and be able to make the snap decisions necessary in order to save lives.

Learn about the clinical applications of ICT’s virtual reality technologies by watching the video below.