Virtual Reality in Healthcare

Posted on January 18, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

David Chou has an interesting post up over at the Healthcare Standards blog that talks about virtual reality (VR) and where we’ll see it in healthcare. He posits the following 3 areas of healthcare where the healthcare industry can benefit:

  1. Training
  2. Diagnosis
  3. Treatment

I can’t argue with David’s assessment of how virtual reality solutions will be used in healthcare. I think the most promising of these is likely in the medical training area. However, there are no doubt going to be some great treatment options that use VR as well.

The problem with virtual reality in healthcare is that none of the virtual reality companies are going to focus any of their effort on healthcare. Everyone that I talked to at CES (see all our coverage of Digital Health at CES) made it very clear that VR technology was going to start with gaming and video. That opportunity is so large that they don’t have any time or need to go after other markets.

This isn’t to say that virtual reality won’t be used in healthcare. What I’m saying is that virtual reality vendors aren’t going to be doing things to make it easy for healthcare to adopt their technologies. Innovators that want to use virtual reality in healthcare are going to have to take and adapt what’s built for other industries and apply it to healthcare.

Here’s a simple example. I saw an amazing number of 360 degree camera options that are paired with virtual reality. You literally can turn around and see what’s happening all around you as if you were standing in a room. It’s quite amazing technology (although there was some digital stiching that still needs to be improved) and you could see some application of the technology in healthcare. The problem is that it’s unlikely that this video technology is going to be HIPAA compliant by default. Let’s not even talk about these vendors signing a HIPAA business associate agreement.

This example is why I think the medical training aspect of virtual reality is so promising. It’s not governed by HIPAA and so the technology doesn’t have to worry about those requirements and regulations. The same is true for treatment. The problem there is that for it to truly be classified as a treatment, it’s going to have to go through FDA testing and/or clinical trials. The pace of change is moving so fast with virtual reality technology that by the time you finished a clinical trial or became FDA cleared the old virtual reality technology you used will be considered legacy software and hardware.

With all of this said, I had a chance to try out the next generation Oculus Riftat the Dell venue and it was an extraordinary experience. I got lost in the virtual world (I was playing a simple video game) and completely forgot that I was in a noisy bar. I’m excited to see all of the places virtual reality will pop up. That includes in healthcare.