A new digital pain reduction kit was designed in a partnership between Samsung Health, the German pharma giant, Bayer, healthcare start-up appliedVR, the Travelers insurance company and the Cedars Sinai Medical Center, announced Dr. Brennan Spiegel. The set will be tested in a randomized trial to reduce opioids and speed up the return to work after a musculoskeletal injury, he added. The partnership signals confidence in VR’s place in healthcare and the objective to spread around its utilization as widely as possible.

With virtual reality against painkillers

Virtual reality presents an immersive artificial environment. It is able to alleviate pain and relieve anxiety, according to the latest research. Spiegel and his team at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have been experimenting with the technology for a while. They found a significant drop in pain scores in case of VR therapies.

The research team conducted an experiment, whose results were published in 2017. They enrolled 100 patients suffering from gastrointestinal, cardiac, neurological and post-surgical pain. Fifty patients watched a 15-minute nature video with beautiful mountains and running streams, accompanied by calming music. The other 50 patients wore VR goggles to watch a 15-minute animated game called Pain RelieVR, which was specifically designed to treat patients who have to stay in bed or have limited mobility. The experiment showed that among 100 patients who watched the nature video, there was a 13 percent drop in their pain scores; while patients who watched the virtual reality game had a 24 percent decline in their pain levels. Spiegel even believes the future will be VR pharmacies with specialists prescribing the appropriate VR treatment to patients.

VR helps medical students, too

However, VR could not only help patients but doctors and medical students, too. For example, a virtual simulation represents a cheaper, more versatile alternative to traditional simulations. The same thought processes and practical skills could be tested, but all that would be required is the trainee putting on VR-goggles and a pair of headphones. In the future, the breadth of simulation scenarios that could be accessed in a VR library would dwarf the offerings of even the most impressive sim lab. As the limit of what could be trained would be reflected by the imagination of the VR software developers as opposed to the practical constraints of the lab. Trainees could run through sims in the comfort of their own homes and then debrief with their supervisor via Google Hangout at a convenient time afterward.

Subscribe To The Medical Futurist℠ Newsletter

  • News shaping the future of healthcare
  • Advice on taking charge of your health
  • Reviews of the latest health technology