By Adrian Johansen, freelance writer; @AdrianJohanse18.
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.