How virtual reality is shaping the future of healthcare

Dr Mark Hohenberg, Chief Medical Officer of Curiious, reveals all you need to know about the future of virtual reality in medicine 

Advanced healthcare technologies such as telehealth, artificial intelligence and virtual reality are transforming the way healthcare services are delivered now and into the future. And here at Wavelength, we’re excited about collaborating with healthcare innovators to better understand how these technologies will shape the medical world and what roles clinicians will play.

In early December, we were honoured to host an event at our offices in Sydney to explore some of this ground-breaking technology close up. Our doctors and wider networks enjoyed an evening with Dr Mark Hohenberg, Chief Medical Officer of Curiious, practising physician (Geriatric Medicine) and Clinical Dean at Western Sydney University, finding out how virtual reality is being incorporated across healthcare and medical education.

We spoke to Dr Hohenberg after the event and here’s what he had to say.

Thanks for such an interesting evening Dr Hohenberg. In a nutshell, what exactly is virtual reality?

Virtual reality is an active experience where the user enters a virtual environment and can interact with it in various ways depending on the platform used. The environment can be incredibly realistic and leverages a sense of 'presence'; helping you to think that you are actually there, despite being in a virtual environment. At the very core of a virtual reality experience is great content, whether it be for games, simulations, education, marketing, entertainment or medical training applications. The viewer must become truly immersed in the story that unfolds before them and be driven to engage.

How is virtual reality being applied in healthcare?

There are so many opportunities for virtual reality or what we call immersive technologies in healthcare and medical education. At Curiious, we’ve developed the ‘IQ’ platform, a world-first system which can be embedded into any learning management system. It allows up to 50 users to enter the immersive space together for a group experience enabling group learning and interactivity in virtual reality for the first time.

Doctors can, therefore, be trained even in the most remote locations at a reasonable cost. One of the examples we looked at tonight was how virtual reality can help with situational analysis by providing training on how to deal with difficult patients.

Surgeons are also using virtual reality to plan operations and collaborate with other specialists. By creating 3D virtual reality patient models using CT, PET and MRI scans, surgeons can immerse themselves in a digital virtual simulation of the patient’s body using a virtual reality headset.

Virtual reality is also being used to prepare patients for operations, especially young children. The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, for example, is spearheading a range of research projects to examine whether virtual reality can reduce the trauma of hospital procedures for children.

In short, forward-looking organisations have an opportunity to embrace these emerging technologies, enabling doctors to keep up with best practice and provide the very best healthcare to their patients.

What do you think will be the biggest virtual reality disruptions in the healthcare industry in the next few years?

It will be the ability of virtual reality to improve existing practices such as clinical skills acquisition and non-procedural skills such as communication. The ability for virtual reality to leverage a sense of ‘presence’ is unparalleled and has been shown to significantly improve learning motivation and retention of information in other industries. The healthcare industry will realise these benefits by partnering with firms like Curiious who are capable of addressing the key challenges of adoption of virtual reality in practice.

The evolution towards digital integration is challenging but those organisations that get it right will flourish in this new technology ecosystem.

Thanks so much for your time Dr Hohenberg.

A recent Wavelength survey found that 8 out of 10 doctors are interested in pursuing a new technology-focused medical role at some stage in their careers. If this sounds like you, contact us today and we’ll arrange a confidential chat to discuss your career goals and aspirations, provide advice or access to appropriate training and education courses, and match you to the roles that best suit you.

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