Healthcare Technology Featured Article

March 16, 2017

From Valium to VR: Healthcare's Newest Calming Method

If you stop to think about it, it really is amazing how much pain and anxiety are influenced by your thinking. Say, for example, that you’ve been having really bad headaches that just won’t go away. Most of us have a tendency to look up our symptoms on the Web which, if you come across a site like WebMD, can be terrifying. More often than not, symptoms you have can be caused by a variety of things—spanning from a simple cold to cancer. At that point, you might start to freak yourself out a little by thinking that there’s something seriously wrong with you, which ultimately makes the pain worse, which in turn makes your anxiety worse. It’s a vicious cycle, and a lot of it is spurred on by our own minds.

Anyone who’s experienced this unfortunate cycle of events knows that it can be stopped if you manage to take your mind off of it and realize that you’re doing it to yourself. However, the pain and anxiety is a lot harder to escape if you really do have a medical issue that requires doctor appointments or even surgery. Before heading into the office or operating room, many patients experience severe anxiety about what’s going to happen in the coming hours. This doesn’t help anyone; in fact, it only makes matters worse.

To combat this universal problem, Access Sports Medicine & Orthopedics has started offering virtual reality (VR) experiences to patients. Access Sports specializes in the prevention and treatment of disorders, injuries and illness to the muscles, bones and joints. Therefore, a lot of people who come into their six locations in Southeastern New Hampshire tend to be in a lot of pain. After this realization, Access Sports decided to give VR a shot.

VR offers something for everyone—pediatric patients can play fun games in the waiting room, and adult patients have the option to immerse themselves in relaxing scenes. Imagine sitting in a waiting room but instead mentally being at the beach or hiking up a mountain; those scenarios are much more enjoyable than wondering how your surgery will go or concentrating on your joint pain.

Access Sports’ idea isn’t a total shot in the dark, either. According to appliedVR case studies, pre-clinical results showed a 63 percent reduction in anxiety, and clinical results showed a 24 percent decrease in pain when patients used virtual reality. As a result, VR is being seriously considered by several organizations as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to calm nerves.  The ultimate hope is that using VR could reduce or completely eliminate the need for anti-anxiety medications like Valium.

VR has the potential to become the latest and greatest in healthcare tech. There are countless ways it can be used in everyday life, but in my opinion, using it to improve the mental and physical health of patients is one of the best ways it’s been implemented so far. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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