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Virtual reality in healthcare helping prep for surgeries, training staff

In the gaming world, virtual reality is a clear hit among users. Just look at the explosive success of Pokémon Go! Ok, so that’s technically augmented reality. But you catch my drift.

As it turns out, virtual reality is not only incredibly cool but also has the potential to be helpful in healthcare specifically when it comes to preparing for surgeries as well as training and educating staff.

This is already being done at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, according to a story in the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s news website. And UCLA has also reaped other benefits from virtual reality technology. For example, they’ve already diagnosed almost 1,500 prostate cancer patients using the technology. This improved the diagnosis accuracy by more than 300%, a surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center asserted in the Daily Bruin story.

At UCLA, virtual reality technology also allows surgeons to build a three dimensional model of a patient’s anatomy based on a patient’s CT scan. Once the model is built, the injury or area of concern can be identified. Surgeons can then rehearse the surgical steps before the actual operation takes place.

Virtual reality technologies are useful for everything from treating simple injuries to conducting complex multi-organ surgery, according to the story.

And virtual reality is also useful for training and educating medical staff.

For example, by using virtual reality technologies to familiarize surgical teams with an operation before it is done not only improves teamwork but also minimizes the patient’s and the surgeon’s anxiety, the article said.

And as for educating future doctors and surgeons, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, is using Microsoft HoloLens to do just that.

Although virtual reality in healthcare is promising for training and education staff as well as improving patient care and outcomes, this technology still has a ways to go.

One challenge is that medical scans of a patient’s anatomy may be too complex to be converted into a virtual reality environment for use before surgery, the article said. Furthermore, it can also be difficult to make sure that a virtual reality scenario reflects the complexities of the entire body—an interconnected network of cause and effect.