The 3 Areas of Impact For Virtual Reality In Healthcare

The 3 Areas of Impact For Virtual Reality In Healthcare

The global VR market size was valued at $21.83 billion in 2021

Since the mid-1980s when Jaron Lanier and colleagues created the technology, it has impacted virtually every industry from gaming and personal entertainment to healthcare and construction.

As far as healthcare is concerned, the industry is just starting to reap the benefits of virtual reality simulations in healthcare education, pain management, and patient rehabilitation. 

What is virtual reality?


Virtual Reality(VR) is a digital, computer-generated 3-Dimensional real-world simulation. Using headsets, bodysuits, glasses, and gloves designed specifically for VR and AR (augmented reality), your body and senses will be convinced you’re at the top of a 60-story building when in fact you’re in your kitchen. 

4 Benefits of Virtual Reality Applications in Healthcare


  • Patients can be helped all across the globe, as long as they have access to VR and an internet connection. There’s no need to spend thousands of dollars on plane tickets or wait months to schedule a visit.
  • More individualized care for patients. Now that doctors can understand and empathize more with patients’ struggles, doctors may take a different approach to treat them. Also, progression steps for working through complex tasks can now be offloaded into smaller, more manageable bits for patients to work with.
  • Doctors can prepare for invasive(or any) surgeries before the actual surgery, giving them a better understanding of what they are getting into before operating and reducing spur-of-the-moment decisions that could have detrimental outcomes.
  • An emphasis on holistic, drug-free pain management to reduce the opioid crisis. 

    3 Areas of Healthcare VR is Impacting Most


    VR headset usage


    Virtual Reality in Healthcare Education

    Using VR in the medical field has led to:

    • Increased empathy
    • Better on-boarding and training
    • Enhanced quality of care
    • Higher safety
    • More standardized care procedures 

    At the core of VR applications for medical education, the technology allows surgeons, medical students, and other care providers to gain first-hand experience prior to an event or surgery.

    From a surgical perspective, the biggest breakthrough is in surgery simulations. VR allows surgeons to run through their patient’s operations before even putting them in the OR. In doing so, surgeons can be better prepared to perform a surgery that will produce the best outcomes in a safe environment.

    For students (or those in need of continuing education credits), they can learn risk-free. Want to practice administering CPR with people yelling and a ticking clock? VR can help with that. Learning becomes active rather than passive. This helps with both the retaining of information and its application of it. 

    Companies leading the charge

    Embodied Labs uses VR to put caretakers in the shoes of those with emotional, cognitive, and sensory deficiencies (Alzheimer’s being one).

    Surgical Theater is a virtual reality surgery simulator. It feeds 2D patient scans (MRI, CT) and other data into its Precision XR platform, which then uses AR and VR technology to create a 360-degree 3-D visualization of the information for surgeons to pre-plan their operations.

    Vicarious Surgical gives surgeons 360 degrees of access to patients’ abdominals and allows them to use a tiny surgical robot with 28 sensors per arm to create more precise, safer surgeries. 

    Immertec is a peer-to-peer collaboration platform that allows physicians to remotely attend 3D streamed operations.

    Patient laying on couch with VR headset

    Virtual Reality and Pain Management

    1 in 5 Americans suffers from chronic pain (pain lasting longer than three months) of some sort.

    Treatment of pain for most injuries and surgeries involves an opioid (Vicodin, Morphine, OxyCotin) prescription – which triggers the release of endorphins, making you feel less pain and more pleasure. Who wouldn’t want to be pain-free and feel like their old selves again by simply taking a pill every morning?

    This high is quite literally addicting. The more people take opioids, the more their body adapts to the medication. As time goes on, they need to take more to achieve the same effects they had previously. One pill becomes two. Two then becomes three. Hence why roughly 500,000 people died of an opioid overdose from 1999 – 2019. There’s an evident problem that needs to be addressed.

    To combat this, companies are using VR to offer a medication-free form of treatment for those experiencing chronic pain, recovering from surgery, and dealing with other health issues. Through the use of VR, users experience physical relaxation, anxiety reduction, and lower blood pressure. The simulations redirect their attention – allowing their focus to be on something else besides the ache on the low right-hand side of their back. 

    Companies leading the charge

    RelieVRx treats chronic lower back pain through an at-home, 7-week self-directed program.

    Reducept is a medication-free, gamified chronic pain treatment platform that teaches patients how pain works and how to manage it.

    AppliedVR uses VR to build immersive therapeutic solutions to prevent and manage medical disorders.

    Patient using VR with nurse


    Virtual Reality and Rehabilitation / Maintenance

    Traditionally, patients were limited in the quality of care they received based on geographic location, work/life duties (kids, work), and cost. With the use of virtual reality, patients can now receive care no matter where they are. As long as there is an internet connection, patients can complete their self-paced assignments and/or engage with providers.

    VR also reduces commutes and waiting room times. Patients are able to invest more time into their treatment – potentially speeding up their recovery time.

    From a practitioner's perspective, VR technology gives more data on the patients to accurately measure their starting points, needs, and progress. The data then helps build more personalized care plans to better fit each patient. 

    Companies leading the charge

    Floreo helps those who are neurodiverse (ADHD, Anxiety, and Autism) learn social, behavioral, and life skills in a safe, controlled environment. 

    SyncThink measures visual cues through EYE-SYNC assessments to identify neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson’s) and other eye movement-related disorders (concussions, ADHD), which then allows practitioners to build a personalized, trackable treatment plan. 

    XRHealth provides access to personalized occupational therapy, cognitive therapy, pain management, and speech-language therapy in virtual treatment rooms. 

    While VR technology has made considerable progress over the past few decades, there’s still room to go in terms of more adoption and providing more access for all. 

    Medical Disclaimer:

    The information provided by bttn on this website is not medical advice, and all materials on this website, including text and images, are for educational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for advice from a professional healthcare provider.