THE VIRTUAL WORLD IN HEALTH AND LIFE SCIENCES
It takes an experience to believe the magic of the Virtual Reality. My share of the experience was about a year ago when I embarked on a magical virtual journey inside the basic unit of life: A cell!
A mesmerising journey in a world where pure creativity and skill met pure science. And this, for one purpose. Learning through believing!
Virtual reality has quickly found its place in the gaming and entertainment industry. It has all the ingredients for the core need to dive into the next level of experience. However, as this was happening, scientific minds were exploring the possibilities of the use of this immersive experience for the purpose of science.
It is our usual experience at Ethosh, that when we speak about Virtual Reality to doctors, they often wonder what it has got to do with their science. However, the moment they are given the experience, it doesn’t take much time for their minds to think of unique possibilities that could be used in their domain of expertise. May it be in training of the staff or therapy in their patients.
Virtual reality, at the first stance, does look like a Wishing Tree. You imagine. You get!
However, in health and life sciences, it would always be important to distinguish between the utility of VR as a gimmick versus something that serves a purpose. For that, it would be important to know the true properties of VR that match with this domain.
Overall, VR provides the opportunity to experience situations which are not routinely accessible or need exposure in a controlled environment.
- Distraction: The main ability of the VR environment is to distract the mind through an immersive experience. Distraction serves the purpose of dis-engaging with some unhealthy thought patterns which are at the root of many diseases. While these not only include the psychiatric disorders, it has an equally strong hold in pain management. Often the brain learns to protect the painful part through restriction of motion at a joint. It needs to be convinced that movements could be non-painful. This can be achieved through Virtual Reality. Through distraction.
- Safety: Often in the training of personnel for unusual situations like disaster management, medical emergencies, life support protocols, one has to leave the personnel to their individual imagination of these situations. However, with VR, a standardized situation can be created, and the personnel can be primed to know what it is like to being in the situation. Not only does this have applications in medical device trainings but also in therapy for disorders like Phobias, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, Anxieties and many more.
- Interaction: Most of the activities in Health and Life Sciences are protocol driven. They involve a right sequencing of activities. Repetition of such activities is a proven way to master the task. Whereas a constant monitoring and feedback from a trainer would be needed to meet this requirement, this option has limitations to its scalability. This is where VR dives in. A VR experience can be pre-programmed to monitor the sequence of activities performed and an immediate and consistent feedback can be provided to the user till the task is mastered. This makes the training standardized, portable and scalable.
- Unlimited Imagination: Truly there is no limit to what you can create in a Virtual Environment. When it comes to futuristic visualization of new concepts, VR serves to get you to a situation as if you are already there! It helps the stakeholders develop a stronger belief about the future. This can remove all the generalisations, deletions and distortions about a concept that each stakeholder could have on an individual level. VR helps by taking you there in your mind!
While, these properties represent the major aspects of utility of VR in Health and Life Sciences, we at Ethosh do not limit ourselves in this framework alone. For us the creation of content begins from a question. A question which addresses a current challenge to achieve a purpose. It may be in training and education, therapy or futuristic visualization. We have had curious and innovative doctors coming in to us with brilliant ideas, because of which we are already on projects in mental sciences, hospital infection control, amputee rehabilitation and foetal development visualization to name a few.
Any doctor, scientist or person in the stakeholder chain with respect to the Health and Life Sciences chain is welcome at Ethosh for an experience in VR so that their ideas can manifest in Virtual Reality!
Dr. Pushkar S. Khair , MBBS, DNB
Chief, Digital Healthcare