Virtual Reality Finds Increasing Applications in Healthcare – Business

Image: Applications for VR in healthcare include surgery, pain management, and medical education, among many others as its appeal continues to grow (Photo courtesy of Touchstone Research).

The virtual reality (VR) in the U.S. healthcare market grew from USD 525 million in 2012 to an estimated USD 976 million in 2017, and the U.S. VR and augmented reality (AR) in healthcare market is expected to grow at roughly that level. These are the latest findings of Kalorama Information, an independent medical market research firm.

The predominant markets for VR and AR in healthcare are in surgery, medical education, professional training in healthcare, physical rehabilitation, pain management, and behavioral therapy. According to Kalorama, there are scores of applications for VR in healthcare, such as surgery, pain management, and medical education, among others.

The market for VR and AR in surgery includes technologies such as surgical navigation, robot-assisted surgery (RAS), and treatment planning and patient alignment in radiotherapy. VR technology is proving to be particularly useful in robot-assisted orthopedic surgery. VR in healthcare is also finding application in pain management due to its immersive qualities, which can significantly reduce patients’ active attention to painful procedures such as wound cleaning and needle insertion. Additionally, VR in healthcare is finding application in medical education, particularly surgical education, with various companies offering VR, often headset-based, and AR products that address the pre-operative spectrum from surgical planning through rehearsal, independent of a particular platform such as surgical navigation system or RAS. Image fusion of multiple medical imaging modalities provides surgeons and consulting physicians with 3D patient-specific anatomy that can be accessed and navigated in AR or VR.

“The term ‘virtual reality’ is used in different contexts,” said Emil Salazar, Kalorama analyst and author of the report. “Broadly, virtual reality is the means or capability to visualize and manipulate, or otherwise interact with, digital data representative of a real-world entity or environment. These digital data representatives are called virtual environments or VEs, which in healthcare would be an operating room, surgical site, patient anatomy, or therapeutic simulation.”

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