When you hear the words “cancer treatment,” you probably think of things like chemotherapy, radiation or even hair loss. While many cancer patients go through painful procedures that create uncomfortable and life-changing side effects, there might be new ways to help them deal with the disease and their care.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are technology trends in healthcare that have recently taken the industry by storm. While many researchers have been interested in this technology for some time, it’s only been in the past few years that studies have started to prove its usefulness in helping cancer patients undergoing care. Here are the essentials you should know to understand the use of VR and AR for cancer patients.
What are VR and AR?
Virtual reality is an immersive technology that closes the user off from the real world. Using a headset and video screen, the user can feel the experience of being transported to new locations. If you’re unfamiliar with this technology, do a quick online search to find videos of people who feel they are falling or that things are moving toward them in such a way that they instinctively shift their body to avoid contact. These videos are amusing, but this technology is so much more than just fun.
Augmented reality, often called AR, uses a camera or smartphone to add digital elements to the real world. Typical uses are lenses on the popular app Snapchat or the ever-intriguing game of Pokemon Go. AR has many applications in healthcare as well.
Use of VR and AR in healthcare
Medicine and other treatments are both palliative and curative. However, all medicines and procedures have limitations and at times create negative effects that patients must adapt to or learn to overcome. Researchers continually look for new ways to impact patient care with immersive technologies and other cutting-edge advancements. Both AR and VR have received acclaim for their role in the healthcare industry.
Not only can this tech help patients, but it can improve healthcare as a whole. A few of the ways VR is impacting healthcare can be seen in the treatment of chronic pain, the restoration of low vision in older patients or those with damaged vision, and the expedited recovery of patients after traumatic brain injury.
The essential purpose of virtual reality or VR is to shut down the real world and immerse a person into a different environment, be it a fantasy or just a place far away. While it is mostly used in entertainment, this technology gets wide adoption across other industries, including construction, education, retail and healthcare.
According to a recent report, the global healthcare VR market is expected to massively grow by 2023 with a 54.5 percent CAGR. The researchers name a range of major VR applications anticipated to drive even more investments in upcoming years, including PTSD treatment, rehabilitation, education and training, and surgery simulation. The actively growing market creates a supportive environment for better collaboration among payers, clinical stakeholders, and varied VR development companies, naming Osso VR, Iflexion, Psious and others.
Even though the VR technology is quite young, and healthcare isn’t always daring to adopt cutting-edge approaches and add them to the traditional practice, it is just too promising to ignore.
By Amy Sklar, SVP of advanced manufacturing communities, UBM.
As reported by Rock Health’s Midyear Funding Review, 2018 got off to a roaring start with $3.4 billion for digital health funding in the first six months of the year. All indicators point to continued momentum in 2019, as startups and veteran companies alike work to unlock the potential of digital health technology to increase efficiencies in healthcare delivery and improve patient outcomes.
In the coming year we will see innovations including smart, connected products offering opportunities for new functionality, consumer engagement, and higher product utilization. The industry will additionally see startups enter the space leveraging new capabilities for data collection and analytics to better apply insights to make medicine more precise. To learn more, a panel of experts will expand on this topic, speaking to the evolving nature of digital health at MD&M West Anaheim 2019.
While nanotechnology isn’t anything new, we will see continued interest in developing the space with an anticipated move toward more catheter-based and minimally invasive procedures. Medical devices are getting smaller with the demand for technology-driven advancements, and rapid developments are being made in design options to enable drug delivery. In particular, breakthroughs in new drugs and biologics are increasingly seeking localized delivery for better therapeutic effects.
Medical robotics has an exciting future. At the Medical Design and Manufacturing (MD&M) 2019 conference in Anaheim, we are seeing a significant increase in companies impacting the surgical robotics field. A few key players include Intuitive Surgical, TransEnterix, Medrobotics, Medtronic with its acquisition of Mazor Robotics and Neural Analytics. Robotic-assisted surgery has the potential to improve patient care and vastly increase the efficiency and accuracy of healthcare teams. We are entering a world where surgical robots are more than just a robotic arm. It consists of intraoperative-imaging, surgical navigation, 3D imaging, pre-surgical planning software, among others, that all mesh seamlessly into the surgeon’s workflow to enable improved outcomes.
Augmented reality and virtual reality: Changing the face of healthcare
One of the most exciting areas of development in the medical technology arena is augmented and virtual reality. While augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have a variety of benefits, we will see these technologies expanding access to healthcare in 2019. Telemedicine is still in its infancy, but with population health on the forefront of medical technology conversations, 2019 will see major strides in advancing virtual care to support the two thirds of the world’s population that doesn’t have access to safe or affordable surgery.
Guest post by Torben Nielsen, senior vice president of product at HealthSparq.
Significant policy changes are inevitably on the horizon for health care in 2017. Though the question marks about what is next for our industry seem endless, Americans are wondering how health care costs will change, and if their insurance carrier will continue to provide them with the coverage they need. One thing we know for certain is that health care industry disruptors will continue to innovate in a way that we can’t ignore. That’s why it’s important for health plans and hospitals alike to embrace the technology that could simplify the way people interact with the health care industry.
To that, here are my five predictions for the industry in 2017:
Artificial intelligence innovations will help people navigate the healthcare system.
From robots and chat bots, to increasing telehealth options, we’re expecting significant innovations in 2017 for both doctors and patients. On the hospital side, chat bots have the potential to streamline the processes that people often get caught up in when visiting their practitioner, or when dealing with insurance protocol. The chat bots of the future will be able to have meaningful conversation that will help people navigate the system, instead of confusing them. A member could say to their health plan, “I’m looking for a cheaper MRI,” and artificial intelligence can help with a more guided search.
Virtual reality will continue moving into the hospital side of healthcare.
With technology like Oculus Rift and HTC Vibe on the market, people around the world are getting used to the idea of virtual reality in health care, too, and we don’t expect that interest to die down anytime soon. Surgeons are already utilizing virtual reality to practice upcoming surgeries, and patients are beginning to see the benefits of this technology, too. For example, at the University of Southern California combat veterans experiencing PTSD are being treated using virtual reality gaming as a healing mechanism to help process trauma. As these tools continue to get smarter, both hospitals and patients will continue to see virtual reality extend into their care practices more regularly in the coming year.
Personalization of healthcare technology will help data transfers happen easier.
Block chain technology has potential to help secure EHR data and health plan member information in a way that streamlines the health care journey for both the patient and the provider. Healthcare processes and experiences can feel very stifled and complicated to all parties in the system (that’s why HealthSparq created #WhatTheHealthCare!) because hospitals and health systems are sitting on so much data that is not connected or easily shared. Data fluidity is a goal for the industry, and with new applications of block chain technology, the health care ecosystem may now see data transfers and fluidity happen much more simply, giving everyone a more holistic view of health care status, options and improvement opportunities.