Skip to main content
Medical Industry is entering a new era

Medical Virtual World

One of the biggest social media Platform has rebranded its name to Meta by adopting the idea of Metaverse. The chief product officer of Meta, Chris Cox said that the idea is to make “the internet less flat” and believed that the Metaverse idea would be the next era for the internet as a whole.

There is no absolute definition of Metaverse at this stage yet, but the general idea is “a virtual place where everyone can access, express themselves and connect together”1. People can access to this virtual space through extended and mixed reality technologies. In this space, people can create a virtual space based on their imagination and preferences and the others can “enter” this space via common links or invitations. In this virtual space, we can create avatars to represent ourselves while interacting with the others via internet connection.

Market Size

Data source: Thomas Alsop, “Augmented (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) market size worldwide from 2021 to 2024”, Statista, 23 November 2021

According to the research done by Thomas Alsop in 20212, the global market size for AR, VP, and MR in 2021 is USD 30.7 billions and expected to reach almost USD 300 billions by 2024. For the global market size for VR individually already reached USD 15.81 billions in 2020 and is expecting to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18% from 2021 to 20283. Compared all the regions, Asia Pacific got the biggest revenue share of over 40.0% in 2020 because of the boosting developments in VR technology. China has become the major distribution of head-mounted display (HMDs) devices among the Asia Pacific region.

Those are huge numbers of growth, so what makes them so valuable and growing so rapidly? Firstly, let’s get to know what those technologies are.

VR, AR, MR, and ER ?

Nowadays, the technologies can used for offering medical trainings and learning to healthcare professionals and students. They can have the virtual surgery practices repeatedly without hurting the real patients. For example, combing the technologies of Wraith VR surgical simulator with OMNIBotics robotic assisted total knee replacement, it offers the healthcare professionals to have deeper understanding the structure of the knees and get familiar with the knee surgery procedure before having the actual surgery. Meanwhile, the OMNIBotics with robotic instrumentation and patented Bone Morphing technology can instantly provide a 3D model of the knee during the surgery. Utilising all these technologies together increases the accuracy of the surgery and lower the risks of making vital medical errors4 5. Another prominent VR tool for medical training would be ImmersiveTouch. The healthcare institution can use computerised tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) technology to scan patients and form the digital imaging and communications in Medicine (DICOM). These images show doctors the real medical conditions of patients in 2D images. But with ImmersiveView™ VR, it can transform the 2D DICOM into 3D virtual reality and provide doctors the surgical environment which is similar to the real surgery. So that they can have preoperative planning and experience with the instruments which come with great sense of feedback and responsiveness6 7

Moreover, the virtual technology allows medical students to learn in an easier and better way by feeling and visualising the nuances of medical terminology. With better understandings of the teachings, the students can turn the knowledge into long term memories.

Applications of Virtual Technologies in
Medical Industry

The market size of these technologies is growing dramatically over these
years it is because the technologies can be used in many fields which making the market demand to increase.

Medical trainings

Nowadays, the technologies can used for offering medical trainings and learning to healthcare professionals and students. They can have the virtual surgery practices repeatedly without hurting the real patients. For example, combing the technologies of Wraith VR surgical simulator with OMNIBotics robotic assisted total knee replacement, it offers the healthcare professionals to have deeper understanding the structure of the knees and get familiar with the knee surgery procedure before having the actual surgery. Meanwhile, the OMNIBotics with robotic instrumentation and patented Bone Morphing technology can instantly provide a 3D model of the knee during the surgery. Utilising all these technologies together increases the accuracy of the surgery and lower the risks of making vital medical errors8 9. Another prominent VR tool for medical training would be ImmersiveTouch. The healthcare institution can use computerised tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) technology to scan patients and form the digital imaging and communications in Medicine (DICOM). These images show doctors the real medical conditions of patients in 2D images. But with ImmersiveView™ VR, it can transform the 2D DICOM into 3D virtual reality and provide doctors the surgical environment which is similar to the real surgery. So that they can have preoperative planning and experience with the instruments which come with great sense of feedback and responsiveness10 11

Moreover, the virtual technology allows medical students to learn in an easier and better way by feeling and visualising the nuances of medical terminology. With better understandings of the teachings, the students can turn the knowledge into long term memories.

Medical Treatments

Other than the medical trainings, nowadays the professional healthcare is using the VR and AR technology to treat patients for psychological therapy, pain management and physical therapy.

Pain Management

According to the medical research of the “Effect of Virtual Reality-Based Exercise Images on Pain in Healthy Individuals” (2019)12, the result indicated that for participants who were immersed in VR environment would have higher pressure pain thresholds and heat pain thresholds when compared with the experiment periods without VR technologies. It means the VR technologies can actually distract people from pain. Also, another study from the University of Washington Seattle and the UW Harborview Burn Centre found out that the pain level of patients who need to undergo physical therapies after skin graft would be greatly reduced with the help of full immersion of VR13. Meanwhile, adding some more fun elements into the VR immersion environment can enhance the patient engagement level and “lighten” their pain and burdens during the torturous treatments. The higher frequency and possibility for patients to take the treatments will sequently result in faster recovery.

Virtual Reality Rehabilitation

Physical therapies / rehabilitations

The application of virtual technology on physical therapies is similar to enhance pain management. The traditional physical therapy is usually monotonous and repeatedly, and these natures of physical therapies would push the patients away from the treatments14 But combining the technology of virtual reality and augmented reality, the healthcare professionals can actually create much more fun and exciting scenarios for the patients with gamification. They can provide some goal-oriented games for the patients to engage and even compete with other patients, so that they can encourage each other during the recovery journey as well. Also, for the fully immersive virtual environment, the patients can focus more during the treatments and become less self-conscious about their own conditions. When they are having non-immersive physical therapy, they can be easily distracted by the surrounding. At the same time, if the patients can have in-home VR-based physical therapy, then they can save plenty of the traveling time and costs of physical therapy in the clinic. It would be much easier for them to attend the virtual physical therapy and increase the frequency of it since they only need to be at home with good internet connection.

In addition, VR technology can also work with body trackers which can store all the information about the posture and movements in real time. Combining with the full-body replay mode which allows the healthcare professionals to record and review at later time. The healthcare professionals can play back and assess the patients’ conditions in much more sophisticated ways.

Dealing with grieft

Death comes to us at the end of the day, but the ones who are left behind will be heartbroken and miss the deceased ones. Sometimes, death just comes suddenly and they cannot even say a proper goodbye to each other. This might leave lifelong regrets and self-blames to certain people. Also, different people would have various approaches to deal with grief. Some people can move on without a closure, while some might desperately want one15. The VR technology is now so advanced that the technicians can create a 3D virtual character with lively face impressions and body movements based on the provided photos and characteristics of the person in order to allow us to see our beloved ones to say goodbye for the very last time, get the closure we need, and then move on with our life again. In May 2020, there was a documentary called “Meeting You” that was about a Korean mother lost her daughter to blood cancer in 2016 and 6 different studios worked together to create the VR experience in order to let the surviving family to meet the little girl once again16. We cannot say that this method can fully heal the broken hearts but at least it helps them to feel better with the closure at certain extent.

virtual reality grief
Remote psychological therapy

Remote psychological therapy

The barriers for conducting medical consultation in person has been increased due to physical distancing requirements and stay-at-home orders during COVID-19 phase. But for the patients who need psychotherapy should not pause the treatments or decrease the frequencies of regular checkups and progress assessments because then the healthcare professionals might not know whether the conditions of patients are getting better or worse. In some extreme cases, the conditions could worsen to the extent that would put the patients in danger if the healthcare professionals were not there to support and guide the patients for long time intervals. So telecommunication technology comes into play like clinical video teleconferences (CVT). In the research published on Journal of Traumatic Stress in Aug 202017, they studied the effectiveness of delivering prolonged exposure therapy to the patients who are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) via the clinical video conferences on mobile phones, tablets or desktops. For patients under stress, they might avoid to leave home or meeting anyone in person when they are not feeling okay. The main finding was that there was no significant differences between home-based CVT, clinic-based CVT and home-based in person prolonged exposure therapy.

At the same time, the healthcare professionals might find it hard to build better rapprochement and show empath with patients through the traditional telehealth which has limited visibility of body language, facial expression and physical presence18. But the coming Project Cambria has brought a great news to us. The high-end standalone VR headset equipped with a lots of new technology and will be launched in 2022. One of the main selling point would be its sensor 19 which enables it to capture facial expressions of the real person and reflect the facial expressions on their own avatars. If the technology was successful, it would make the telecommunication even more effective and efficient, yet more interactive and reciprocal. It would bring great positive impact to telemedicine since the professional healthcares would be able to see more precise facial expression of the patients. With this powerful VR technology, the healthcare professionals can observe the patients even when they are not willing to show their real bodies and faces, they still can choose the preferred avatars to represent themselves and attend the therapy.

However, there are also some downsides for tele-psychotherapy, because the patients’ bad experience, memories and emotions can be evoked and triggered during the therapy. Hence, a comprehensive safety plan and guidelines have to be presented and explained to the patients and take precautions for any emergencies. The healthcare professionals who want to conduct remote psychological treatments to patients need to have sufficient knowledge, experiences and confidence to carry out the treatment remotely.

All in all, if you search online, you can find more and more online psychology clinics. It simply says that the public started to adopt tele-psychotherapy and it has become a therapy alternative for patients and offer additional supports especially during the pandemic. To move tele-psychotherapy forward in near future, more researches about its effectiveness and usages would be conducted and more related trainings to healthcare professionals should be provided to enhance their awareness, knowledge and confidence about tele-psychotherapy.

 

Click here to know about the “Future Development of Virtual Technology in Medical Industry“!

  1. Jane Wakefield, “Facebook’s metaverse plans labelled as ‘dystopian’ and ‘a bad idea’ “, BBC News, 4 November 2021 https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-59154520
  2. Thomas Alsop, “Augmented (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) market size worldwide from 2021 to 2024”, Statista, 23 November 2021 https://www.statista.com/statistics/591181/global-augmented-virtual-reality-market-size/
  3. Grandviewresearch.com, “Virtual Reality Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Technology (Semi & Fully Immersive, Non-immersive), By Device (HMD, GTD), By Component (Hardware, Software), By Application, And Segment Forecasts, 2021 – 2028”, published in March 2021 https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/virtual-reality-vr-market
  4. Corin Grouup, “OMNIBotics® robotic-assisted total knee replacement Precision you can feel” https://www.orthonorcal.com/pdfs/omnibotics-robotic-assisted-total-knee-replacement.pdf
  5. Ghost Productions Medical Animation & VR Surgery, “Medical VR Total Knee Surgical Simulator Demonstration”, Online video clip. YouTube, 3 July 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4vO64Y27JE
  6. ImmersiveTouch, “Revolutionizing Digital Surgery Transforming surgical planning”, https://www.immersivetouch.com/#view-plan-rehearse
  7. Globetown Media, “ImmersiveTouch | See the Difference“, Online video clip, YouTube, 17 October 2021
  8. Corin Grouup, “OMNIBotics® robotic-assisted total knee replacement Precision you can feel” https://www.orthonorcal.com/pdfs/omnibotics-robotic-assisted-total-knee-replacement.pdf
  9. Ghost Productions Medical Animation & VR Surgery, “Medical VR Total Knee Surgical Simulator Demonstration”, Online video clip. YouTube, 3 July 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4vO64Y27JE
  10. ImmersiveTouch, “Revolutionizing Digital Surgery Transforming surgical planning”, https://www.immersivetouch.com/#view-plan-rehearse
  11. Globetown Media, “ImmersiveTouch | See the Difference“, Online video clip, YouTube, 17 October 2021
  12. Kazuhiro Hayashi, Shuichi Aono, Yukiko Shiro, Takahiro Ushida, “Effects of Virtual Reality-Based Exercise Imagery on Pain in Healthy Individuals”, BioMed Research International, vol. 2019, Article ID 5021914, 9 pages, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/5021914
  13. Visualise, “Virtual Reality in Healthcare”, https://visualise.com/virtual-reality/virtual-reality-healthcare
  14. Reilly, Clifford A. MPH∗; Greeley, Aimee Burnett PT, MPH; Jevsevar, David S. MD, MBA; Gitajn, Ida Leah MD, MS “Virtual reality-based physical therapy for patients with lower extremity injuries: feasibility and acceptability”, Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. on behalf of the Orthopaedic Trauma Association https://journals.lww.com/otainternational/Fulltext/2021/06000/Virtual_reality_based_physical_therapy_for.12.aspx
  15. Pam Ramsden, “The psychology of closure – and why some need it more than others”, The Conversation, 9 October 2018 https://theconversation.com/the-psychology-of-closure-and-why-some-need-it-more-than-others-104159
  16. Violet Kim, “Virtual Reality, Real Grief”, Slate, 27 May 2020 https://slate.com/technology/2020/05/meeting-you-virtual-reality-documentary-mbc.html
  17. Wells, Stephanie Y et al. “Delivering Prolonged Exposure Therapy via Videoconferencing During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Overview of the Research and Special Considerations for Providers.” Journal of traumatic stress vol. 33,4 (2020): 380-390. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7461321/
  18. Ong, Triton et al. “Extended Reality for Enhanced Telehealth During and Beyond COVID-19: Viewpoint.” JMIR serious games vol. 9,3 e26520. 26 Jul. 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8315161/
  19. Alan Martin, “Is Project Cambria the Oculus Quest Pro? Here’s everything we know so far”, Tom’s Guide, 2 November 2021 ****https://www.tomsguide.com/news/meta-project-cambria-headset