Virtual Reality in Healthcare: Overview
ScienceSoft draws on 33 years in IT and 17 years in healthcare when providing end-to-end VR consulting and development services.
Virtual Reality solutions allow both healthcare professionals and patients interact with simulated environments tailored for medical education (including simulative surgery training), pain management or rehabilitation. In 2020, the global healthcare VR market was estimated $336.9 million. It is projected to grow at an average CAGR of 30.7% and reach $2.2 billion by 2024.
According to the Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research, healthcare is among the top 3 industries that will remain leading adopters of VR technology up to 2025.
82% of healthcare professionals agree that virtual reality creates a convenient way of accessing and learning information for medical students and practicing healthcare professionals, Accenture says. The agency also reports that 62% of patients would welcome virtual reality healthcare services as an alternative to traditional healthcare.
The key drivers of the growing VR adoption in healthcare are:
- Extreme demand for quality healthcare services.
- Need to reduce healthcare costs.
- Increased role of connected devices in the healthcare sector.
The architecture of VR applications in healthcare depends on their use in the industry. However, the general architecture always includes 3 main components: a client VR application (with a VR visualization module), a database (with 3D models, scenarios, and users), and a web administration panel that grants access to and control of both the app and the database.
VR for Medical Education
Virtual reality makes for more effective theoretical learning of medical students and starting-out healthcare professionals. With VR, learners can inspect 3D medical models in the details, which can’t be reproduced in physical models, or learn to communicate with AI-controlled virtual patients, whose attitude and behavior can be easily altered for different learning purposes (e.g., communication with patients who are non-native English speakers).
How VR for medical education works: Any virtual learning session can be held in groups or individually and guided either by a real tutor, who is also connected to the VR app or by a virtual preprogrammed tutor controlled by the AI algorithms.
- Anatomy learning.
- Medical social skills learning.
VR for Medical Training
VR software that focuses specifically on practical medical training helps medical school graduates and healthcare professionals alike acquire hands-on skills in risk-free conditions. This type of healthcare VR allows simulating scenarios that are difficult, dangerous, or expensive to recreate in real life.
How VR for medical training works: Upon entering a VR app’s simulated environment, a user becomes a part of a training scenario that expects them to complete predetermined steps in, for instance, performing a medical procedure or handling medical equipment. A separate analytical module continuously records the taken actions and assesses a medical professional’s performance based on set criteria.
- Medical procedure simulation.
- Emergency case simulation.
- Medical equipment use training.
VR for Surgery
By allowing surgeons to perform different types of mock-surgeries in the virtual space, VR helps eliminate practical skill deficiency faster. Surgeons can become skilled professionals without using expensive onetime use mannequins for training.
How VR for surgery works: With the help of haptic controllers, a surgeon performs a virtual surgery in a virtual operating room. From start to finish, software guides a user through the necessary steps, letting them remember the right sequence of actions. The VR app can also be used for explaining the surgery process to patients.
- Surgical training.
- Pre-surgical planning.
- Medical device marketing.
VR for Pain Management
Virtual reality pain management apps help lower the level of pain or extreme discomfort by effectively diverting a patient’s attention. This type of VR helps minimize the use of potentially harming painkillers and reduce healthcare costs.
How VR for pain management works: After being immersed in the VR simulation, a patient can either become a part of an interactive gamified experience or transferred to a highly realistic environment with a soothing atmosphere that, together with audio stimulation, helps put their mind at ease.
- Chronic pains.
- Acute pains.
- Medical procedure pain.
- Mental pain and anxiety.
VR for Rehabilitation
By moving rehabilitation exercises into the virtual realm, VR turns patients’ therapy sessions into a gamified experience that motivates users to strive for better results via virtual goals and achievements. Software’s built-in AI can provide detailed guidance and inspiring support instead of a real therapist, allowing for cheaper and timewise flexible individual rehabilitation.
How VR for rehabilitation works: The VR app guides a patient through their personal training program stored in the software database. A therapist can edit the program anytime as well as control the results – either via the app’s analytics module or by virtually joining the VR session as an instructor.
- Neurological rehabilitation.
- Physical therapy.
- Cognitive rehabilitation.
VR for Physical Therapy
Virtual physical therapy can offer patients a wide range of exercises – from general orthopedics to injury-recovery. The exercises can be created for specific age-groups too, thus helping children to develop motor skills and older patients – to preserve their agility. Special sessions can also be created for people, who are learning to use a cane or a prosthetic limb.
How VR for physical therapy works: All exercises can be supervised by either an AI-based virtual instructor or a real instructor, who joins the VR sessions remotely. A comprehensive analytics system continuously monitors a patient’s condition and ensures that the exercises do not harm a patient's health in any way.
- Sports injuries.
- Child care/Geriatrics.
- Adaptation to assistive devices or prosthetics.
VR for Stroke Rehabilitation
To effectively recover after stroke, patients re-learn to perform their typical daily actions in the virtual environment. Patients can access a rich database of exercises that help them restore motor skills or improve spatial orientation abilities without posing any risks of damage to self, others or the objects they manipulate. The rehabilitation can be remote, thus allowing to significantly minimize the costs of treatment and transportation.
How VR for stroke rehabilitation works: While post-stroke patients perform repetitive exercises in the VR world, the integrated machine-learning algorithms continuously monitor their performance and automatically adjust the difficulty to ensure progress. Therapists can access the admin panel to check how far their patients progressed or what exercises they got stuck on.
- Physical function restoration.
- Cognitive abilities improvement.
Unreal Engine (C++)
CRYENGINE (C++ and C#)
Amazon Sumerian (HTML, CSS, JS)
Desktop HMD / Tethered VR: Oculus (Rift, Go, Quest 2) HTC Vive, Valve Index, HTC Vive series
Headsets with eye-tracking capabilities: HTC Vive Pro Eye, Tobii Pro, Varjo VR-1 and VR-2
Standalone/Mobile VR: Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream, Lenovo Mirage Solo
Myo Gesture Control Armband
With its virtual reality competencies and ISO 13485-certified quality management system for medical software, ScienceSoft is both your resourceful consultant and a reliable development vendor.
Healthcare VR: consulting
- Software concept finalization.
- Development road-mapping.
- Design of scalable architecture.
- Technology stack definition.
- Software/hardware integration planning.
Healthcare VR: development
- Business analysis and research.
- Architecture design.
- 3D modeling.
- UX and UI design.
- VR development and QA.
- Integration with hardware/software.
- Maintenance and evolution.
Established in 1989 and headquartered in McKinney, TX, ScienceSoft is a global IT consultancy and a software development vendor. We assist our customers in developing high-quality VR software products for the healthcare industry.