Virtual reality is worth real money in healthcare

Virtual reality is big business in healthcare. The market for products that rely on virtual reality (VR)--including robot-assisted surgery, medical data visualization, education and training, and rehabilitation and therapy--was worth $670 million in 2010, according to a Kalorama Information report.

Since 2006, the compound annual growth rate for VR products has been 10 percent. Kalorama expects the market will grow even faster through 2015 as healthcare providers' spending on new equipment and technology recovers. "VR has become a key feature in software applications for radiology and other clinical IT systems, training on minimally-invasive surgical procedures in under-staffed departments, and the completion of those procedures in actual operating rooms," said Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information. 

While VR is most closely associated with robot-assisted and computer-assisted surgery, it has many other healthcare applications. These include multi-modality image fusion, medical imaging 3D/4D reconstruction, pre-operative surgical planning, virtual colonoscopy, virtual surgical simulation, virtual reality exposure therapy, and VR physical rehabilitation and motor skills training.

VR also is used extensively in medical training. For example, VR provides the basis for virtual surgical simulators and other simulators for medical patient procedures.

In the rehabilitation and physical therapy field, there are immersive VR systems for pain management, physical rehabilitation, motor skills training, behavioral therapy, and psychological therapy. One behavioral application is the use of VR in helping people with acrophobia overcome their fear of heights. 

I guess in the age of hyper-realistic video games, it makes sense that virtual reality would also become an important factor in the real world. 

To learn more:
- read this Kalorama press release
- learn more about or purchase the report

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