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The 14 Biggest Benefits of VR in Healthcare
How VR technology is making healthcare and medical training more interactive and accessible.
Healthcare | Article
7 min read
Virtual reality (VR) technology is rapidly moving beyond the gaming industry, finding footing in classrooms, real estate offices, home gyms, and healthcare settings, to name a few.
Hospitals are beginning to realize the benefits of VR in healthcare, from physician training to patient recovery and rehabilitation. Mental health professionals and physical therapists are also adopting VR to build customizable, interactive experiences for their patients.
Let’s go through the many benefits of virtual reality in healthcare for every stakeholder in the healthcare industry, including medical professionals, patients, and administrators.
14 benefits of VR in healthcare
Benefits of VR for medical professionals
Recent studies from The Future Healthcare Journal  indicate that VR can help medical students become better doctors , and colleges are taking notice. For instance, Columbia Clinical Innovation Lab launched a VR ultrasound training program in November 2022 that allows medical students to practice inserting a central line on a virtual patient. And this is just the beginning of VR-led training in medical schools; here are more of the anticipated benefits.
1) Better outcomes with VR surgery mapping
Surgeons who received VR training showed an 8% increase in technical proficiency  . Some VR programs may also allow physicians to perform “practice” surgeries based on their patient’s ultrasound or MRI scan. Aside from training value, this also creates an opportunity to confer with the patient and explain the procedure, leading to greater trust and an improved doctor-patient relationship.
2) Empathy training
A good bedside manner can be a tricky skill to convey in a lecture hall, lab, or a crowded hospital, but VR technology is providing a new setting for teaching medical students about a patient’s experience.
Researchers at the University of New England are building out VR libraries that let future doctors experience age-related conditions , like macular degeneration and hearing loss, from the patient’s perspective. As the cliché goes, seeing is believing, and the study authors were able to conclude that VR training simulating some of the patient’s discomfort led to more empathetic feelings toward a patient’s condition.
3) Greater flexibility and more opportunities for surgical practice
VR training can supplement cadaver practice when there aren’t enough stations or if students want additional practice outside of the classroom. Cadaver stations are also often expensive to procure, set up, and clean-up; which gives some students less of a chance to practice. Having access to VR training can complement live practice and allow students more locational flexibility.
4) More financially viable medical education
Per the World Health Organization, the world will be 10 million doctors short by 2030  unless the current labor shortage can be addressed. Yet the price of a medical degree remains prohibitive for many, with the average cost of medical school in the U.S. hovering around $250,000  . VR has the potential to make medical education more affordable by lowering costs at training facilities and teaching hospitals: For instance, administrators can replace some training done in live operating theaters with VR.
HTC VIVE recently partnered with ORamaVR to create a VR simulation that covers situations in dentistry, surgery, and the ER, among others, and has potential use cases in rehabilitation facilities and training hospitals.
Benefits of VR for patients
The benefits of VR in healthcare extend past the hospital room by increasing accessibility to healthcare for all patients. VR solutions can have a wide range of applications, from physical therapy to psychotherapy.
5) Greater accessibility
Patients can use VR simulations from the comfort of home while being remotely monitored by a doctor via a telehealth platform. Patients living in remote areas or those with disabilities can take advantage of VR solutions when getting services in person is challenging.
Penumbra, a medical device company, partnered with HTC VIVE to create a VR program for stroke survivors in need of rehabilitation services. Similar applications have potential in other fields of rehabilitative therapy.
6) Data and monitoring
VR applications provide real-time data about a patient’s progress with movement tracking capabilities used in VR Healthsets. Patient data can be stored securely and accessed by authorized parties regardless of location thanks to connected services. When presented in an accessible, gamified manner, this data also provides a valuable source of encouragement for the patient who can see how they’re doing and track their progress over time. XRHealth , a leader in virtual reality therapy, sees this as the future of patient care to provide end-to-end care for patients working with multiple providers.
7) Customizable experiences
Using data tracked by VR headsets and accessed by multiple providers, treatment experiences can be customized to patients’ needs and can often be adjusted in real-time by the monitoring healthcare provider. This means that clients who would have otherwise had to follow a cookie-cutter treatment regimen can receive specialized treatment via a VR program without incurring additional healthcare costs.
8) Holistic approach to health
VR solutions can go beyond treating a specific condition. Much as in the gaming and entertainment industries, VR solutions can foster social connections and alleviate a sense of isolation when created for people with disabilities, chronic pain, or other conditions that limit mobility and leave patients with few opportunities for in-person interaction.
9) Non-invasive and non-impairing pain management
Immersive VR experiences were shown as effective in guiding women through labor. Similar applications can be used for patients managing chronic pain and trama procdures. For example, Wide Awake VR released a study detailing the benefits of using VR for hand trama  procedures in an office or emergency room setting.
Benefits of VR for healthcare administrators and hospital managers
Administrators and management professionals can see some indirect benefits of VR in healthcare in the form of cost savings, as well as direct benefits from using VR training solutions.
10) Potential lower costs
Teaching hospitals and labs can reduce some operating costs by using VR solutions to work with students remotely and host live operating rooms via an immersive VR environment. Some other indirect, long-term benefits include fewer disputes and medical errors as a result of VR training, which leads to lower costs in legal fees, settlements, and administrative burden.
11) More engaging compliance training
Healthcare workers undergo copious amounts of compliance training every year, from HIPAA to OSHA. Incorporating VR training into your compliance curriculum can help increase employee engagement and lower costs by incorporating training programs into one solution versus having employees log in to ten different programs to complete training modules.
12) Reputation for innovation
The VR market is expected to be worth over $165 billion by 2026 . Hospitals, labs, and medical groups adopting VR solutions are already ahead of the curve. Having a reputation for innovation and embracing new technologies can help medical schools attract and retain top talent in classrooms and on staff.
Benefits of VR for security teams in healthcare settings
Hospitals are some of the most hazardous workplaces in the U.S . Security teams working in medical centers and emergency rooms often have to face complex situations with high stakes for everyone involved. VR solutions can provide a realistic training environments in a simulated but safe environment.
13) Greater retention
A recent study showed that employees who received VR training had a 75% retention rate . Those who received lecture-only training had a 5% retention rate. Supplementing your training program with a VR solution can lead to greater retention of life-saving safety measures.
14) Faster, more efficient training
VR trainees were 50% more focused and completed their training four times faster  than those learning in the classroom. Completing training more quickly saves staff members valuable time, which can then be spent on the floor.
Big picture: How virtual reality is changing healthcare
VR technology can make healthcare and healthcare training more accessible, interactive, and customizable. While adoption of VR in healthcare settings is still in its early days, more hospitals may turn to virtual solutions in order to serve more patients, train future doctors, and shore up against rising costs.
There are some pros and cons of virtual reality in healthcare to consider; for example, some people report experiencing motion sickness in virtual environments — an issue that is being addressed through better design that matches what users see with their motions . However, the overall response to VR technology in the medical community has been positive . After all, telehealth was novel only a few years ago, but advancements in technology and shifting social needs have already made it commonplace. It is likely that VR will see a similar trajectory.
 Source: Science Direct, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0883540319303341
 Source: World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/health-workforce#tab=tab_1