By Devin Partida, technology writer and the editor-in-chief, ReHack.com.
Healthcare technology is experiencing something of a golden age at the moment. The world is undergoing an unprecedented period of technological advancement, and the medical industry is at the forefront of this revolution. One of the most promising instances of this trend is the adoption of virtual tech in healthcare.
From virtual reality (VR) to teleconferencing to 3D modeling, virtual technology takes many forms. Nearly all of them have applications in the healthcare industry. These technologies show so much potential that 96% of medical centers plan to expand their use within the year.
Here are five of the most prominent ways virtual tech is pushing healthcare forward.
1. Reducing Exposure to Contagious Diseases
Perhaps the most popular application of virtual healthcare is telemedicine. Patients can consult medical professionals using videoconferencing technology. Since they don’t have to go to a hospital, they don’t have to expose themselves to other, potentially contagious patients.
The reduced need for hospital visits has proven particularly advantageous during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telemedicine interactions increased 37 times over from February to April, during the height of the outbreak. Virtual communication allowed people to access healthcare without risking contracting the virus.
2. Reducing Medical Costs
Eliminating frequent hospital visits can also save patients a considerable amount of money. An emergency room visit costs $1,917 on average, and not every condition warrants a hospital trip. By contacting medial experts through virtual healthcare instead, patients can avoid many of these expenses.
Hospital fees aside, telehealth saves patients money through reduced travel times. In a nation where health care costs are a widely publicized and controversial concern, anything that allows for affordable care is welcome. Some people won’t even seek medical attention due to financial troubles, so monetary savings could also save lives.
3. Making Expert Care More Accessible
Virtual tech in healthcare can also improve the quality of care patients receive. In some areas, especially more remote or impoverished locations, patients may not have access to expert care. Tech like teleconferencing and even remote-controlled medical bots can allow the world’s top doctors to help people virtually anywhere.
Hospitals can also explore the advantages of new tech or services through virtual exhibits and demonstrations. These interactive spaces allow staff to experience the benefits of a new system before paying for them. That way, hospitals can make informed decisions about purchasing new healthcare tech and possibly upgrading their services.
4. Enabling Faster Diagnosis and Treatment
Virtual health screenings can also help patients get the treatment they need faster. On average, patients wait an hour and a half in the emergency room before receiving any care. Telehealth systems, on the other hand. could allow them to see a medical professional almost instantly.
If a patient needs to see a doctor in-person after their initial teleconference, they still save time. Since they would have consulted a professional before the doctor arrives, they’ll already have information to help the doctor make a diagnosis. This allows hospitals to issue treatment sooner, potentially saving lives.
5. Improving Mental Health Treatment
Not all virtual tech in health care relates to telehealth. VR headsets show promise in treating mental health issues like PTSD or phobias. These devices allow doctors to immerse patients in a virtual, but convincing, recreation of an environment, helping them overcome fear through exposure.
Since these worlds are virtual, patients can explore them safely. VR therapy shows so much promise that the Army has invested $2 million in clinical research for these systems. With more adoption, VR therapy could revolutionize the world of PTSD treatment.
Virtual Healthcare Is the Future of Medicine
These examples are just a sampling of the ways virtual healthcare is improving the medical industry. New applications will arise with further research and development, and virtual tech will become even more valuable. As adoption rates start to soar, it’s become clear that this technology could be the future of medicine.