Healthcare's growing uses for virtual reality

Man with VR headset on
As the price point for virtual reality falls, an increasing number of vendors are showing interest in new ways to apply the technology.

Virtual reality offers the potential to address pain and stress management, behavioral health, even mobility training for stroke and spinal cord injury patients.

Brennan Spiegel, MD, who is launching the largest VR-based clinical study to date at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, says he has patients asking daily for ways to alleviate pain without medication, according to an mHealth Intelligence article.

RELATED: Virtual reality tech helps paraplegics regain feeling, movement

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Spiegel, director of health services research for Cedars-Sinai and a professor of medicine and public health at UCLA, is focusing his research on applying the technology for in-patient pain management, narcotic use, hospital length of stay and patient satisfaction. One game used by Cedars-Sinai, Bear Blast, requires that players throw balls at cartoon bears.

Spiegel sees Cedars-Sinai’s Virtual Reality Consult Service as offering the ability for physicians to “prescribe” VR sessions, much like Mount Sinai’s curated app store RxUniverse allows them to prescribe apps to patients.

Stanford Health Care, Harborview Burn Center in Seattle, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston, Texas, are also experimenting with virtual reality for pain management.

RELATED: How VR, other tools are innovating medical care, education

Some projects have focused on using VR to alleviate anxiety in children and combat substance abuse issues. In some cases, physicians have used VR to diagnose an unrelated medical issue.

As the price point for virtual reality falls, an increasing number of vendors are showing interest in new ways to apply the technology.

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