virtual reality is a technology widely used in the scientific world, with more than 20 years of experience in the mental health sector, but, until the appearance of smartphones, this technique could not be offered to the general public.
VIRTUAL REALITY IN MEDICINE
Virtual reality is a tool that has been used in the field of psychiatry and psychology for more than twenty years.
However, until the appearance of the Smartphone it was not possible for the general public to have access to it. Most of the therapeutic applications are based on the specific creation of a 3D environment that promotes the interaction of the patients.
The creation of an artificial immersive environment allows to administer expository therapies that pose no risk to the health of the patient and do not require that they should go in person to the consultation or to the therapist’s office.
Also, in the field of health, as in many others, virtual reality is a useful tool for the training and professional development of nurses and medical personnel in various disciplines. In this line, virtual reality also allows to organize medical congresses remotely.
POSSIBILITIES OF THE MEDICAL-PSYCHIATRIC USES
Treatment of Phobias:
Virtual reality provides the possibility to create immersive scenarios that allow the administration of appropriate expository therapies depending on the phobia that each patient presents. The administration of therapy can be performed by levels by creating other environments in which phobic stimulation increases gradually. When it comes to virtual environments, the safety of the patient is not at all dangerous. If a patient suffers from vertigo, he will first be asked to stand on a chair. After a series of tests of progressive difficulty, you will be asked to be placed on the edge of a ravine, obviously without any risk for the physical integrity of the patient.
Digital simulations are very efficient for the treatment of certain attention disorders. When examining a patient’s vision, the immersive experience will identify the direction of his gaze; this way, it will be possible to build adequate experiences for each patient, with programmed distractions that can be used to control their attention and act according to the data collected.
Virtual reality allows to simulate the avatars of those people with whom a patient has or has had difficulties to relate throughout his life. This way, the patient will be able to interact with these people in an artificial way and confront their relational problems at different levels. Virtual reality contributes, among other things, to partially overcome the fear of others’ judgement: If a patient is not comfortable dealing with a therapist, he may be urged to deal with a computer. It should be noted that no patient can be subjected to therapy, either in person or at a distance, without the supervision of a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Applications for the disabled:
Virtual reality allows people with physical disabilities or reduced mobility to experience things that otherwise they would not have access to, such as exploring natural environments, sporting activities, etc. In addition, it is an educational and innovative plus thanks to which many disabled people can learn how to develop certain daily activities.
Meditation and stress management:
The ability to virtually recreate any type of environment is very useful for applications in the field of guided meditation and stress management. In a very noisy waiting room or in an office full of people in full work activity, a virtual reality device with applications to meditate can be ideal to relax. In addition, these types of applications can improve the management of anxiety crises or panic attacks.
The great immersion capacity of virtual reality is very useful in the therapy of pain or during treatments or operations especially invasive, and can contribute to the reduction of the amount of anesthesia necessary. Thanks to virtual reality, a patient whose mind is in another place will be abstracted from what happens to him in the course of an intervention.
Assessment of brain injury and rehabilitation:
The patient is subjected to a series of tests that will lead him to interact in everyday situations. This method facilitates an accurate assessment of the severity of the injuries sustained and therefore allows for assistance that is better suited to each patient’s rehabilitation needs.
EDUCATIONAL AND TRAINING POSSIBILITIES:
- Doctors and health workers
The creation of experiences that reproduce critical situations with patients is a very useful tool for the training of health workers. On the other hand, the use of complementary technologies to virtual reality displays, such as gloves or special suits that allow to reproduce tactile stimuli, can also contribute to the training of surgeons.
Virtual reality enables technicians to be trained in emergency management without putting anyone’s life at risk. The degree of realism is so high that these experiences are truly enriching and training.
The profitability of this system allows training experiences to reach thousands of people via streaming, in addition to providing a fundamental advantage: a homogeneous training for all health personnel.
- Associate Professor in the Department of Biology – College of Science and Technology – at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
- Director of the School of Specialization in Oncology at the University of Verona.
- Director of the Master of II level in Palliative Medicine.
- Appointed Professor Emeritus of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
- Member of the European Task Force (EAPC Steering Committee) for Medical Training in Palliative Care.
- Member of the Regional Bioethics Committee of the Veneto region, Italy.