Imagine yourself walking on a beach, waves crashing in the background, friends and family all around, perfect weather, and the sun is setting, turning the sky orange and red and pink. Now imagine you’re experiencing this while sitting in your doctor’s office as a treatment for chronic pain or anxiety.
This is the new reality in healthcare today. But it started in 1994, when the Oregon Research Institute used VR to train mobility-impaired children on how to control their motorized wheelchairs. But back in 1994, even the simplest VR systems cost over $30K—not really a cost benefit for healthcare providers or their patients.
Improved technology, lower costs, and higher quality of content are making VR therapy a lot more attractive to healthcare professionals. A study by Cedars-Sinai shows that patients who received a VR headset realized a 24% drop in pain scores after using the VR program. The days of expensive, bulky devices are over. Now all you need is a headset, earphones, a high-resolution LCD and AMOLED display to be immersed in practically real environments. This is no longer science fiction, but science reality!
For the cost of a smartphone and a lightweight headset, VR can now cost-effectively treat patients that are suffering from anxiety or chronic pain. Also, some healthcare providers are using VR with pediatric patients to help administer shots, remove casts, and develop motor skills.
Since VR therapy can be used to treat chronic pain, it is helping to decrease the number of opioid painkiller prescriptions being given to patients. On average, 115 people in the United States die each day from an overdose from opioid or narcotic painkillers. VR therapy can help healthcare providers combat the opioid epidemic in a very real way.