It’s no surprise that the pandemic has made in-person experiences difficult these days – particularly within the healthcare industry. Access to treatments, therapies, and rehabilitation has been adjusted to ensure that safety guidelines are constantly met. This has given technologies that provide alternatives to being in person, such as virtual reality (VR), the opportunity to show patients and the industry alike that they can be effective in contributing to care.
According to a recent study featured on MobiHealthNews, VR has helped COVID-19 survivors with post-intensive care syndrome (PICS) – a condition patients may develop after undergoing a medical crisis such as being supported by mechanical ventilation. Those suffering from PICS can experience physical, psychological, and cognitive impairment.
The authors of the study note that VR helps provide healthcare practitioners with the means to administer fast, temporary, and customized services at a distance for individuals seeking PICS treatment related to COVID-19, including both physical rehabilitation and psychological support.
Prior to the pandemic, VR had already become an increasingly popular tool for patients. For example, the University of Central Florida uses VR to help treat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by incorporating sights, sounds, and smells that reflect their personal experiences (via the American Homefront Project). While using VR to simulate traumatic events, the therapists are able to monitor a patient’s behavior and help with their triggers, like being able to smell diesel fuel without associating it with an explosive device.
VR has also been known to help treat patients with autism. In 2019, Forbes published an article describing how the technology has been embraced by therapists, counselors, and teachers, as well as parents and their children, to help those with autism better communicate with others. The article explains how VR can create role-playing environments for alleviating phobias and practicing social skills, such as preparing autistic children for public speaking by using an audience of avatars that fade away if eye contact isn’t made by the speaker.
With VR, patients have the ability to seek options outside traditional medicine and treatment. And considering today’s ever-changing environment, tools that maintain distance while providing quality care should continue to be a factor when determining the best path for a patient.