Virtual reality is often referred to as a gaming technology. But this technology is rapidly expanding in sectors such as tourism, education, mining and many others.  For several years now, the benefits of virtual reality have been felt in the health field. Whether it is for the training of new professionals, mental health treatment, neuromotor rehabilitation, patient education, diagnostics, surgery… the possibilities are endless !

The professional act of surgery must be done with precision. In this field, error is not allowed, and it can be fatal. The use of immersive training allows practitioners to practice safely, but also to learn to use new tools that are made available to them. This technology is even more important for the training of future doctors. Indeed, it is difficult to have several students attending surgery, they can distract the surgical team, the operating room is often too small and the risks of infections that patients incur are more important. A VR headset and controllers allow the student to have access to an operating room and safely watch a surgical procedure to be performed.

Formation pour la chirurgie

Virtual reality is frequently used for the treatment of phobias in patients. Exposure therapy allows patients to see for themselves that what they fear is less serious than they think. It is also possible to treat certain addictions by presenting worlds where the patient is confronted with their addictions such as alcohol, drugs, gambling or others.  During the simulation, stimuli will be transmitted and the patient’s desire to use will be assessed. Depending on the results, the doctor can then offer the appropriate treatment and help prevent the risk of relapse. This type of virtual reality therapy has better results and a higher rate of engagement than hands-on examinations or clinical trials.

Virtual reality can also help improve empathy among health professionals. Tools have been developed so that physicians can put themselves in their patients’ shoes and better understand their psychological states. For example, Lanovaz Lab Inc. and the CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal have called upon Etherlab’s services to develop a scenario to identify the challenges faced by a person with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is also possible to find oneself in situations experienced by victims of verbal abuse or domestic violence. Among other things, the future graduates of Collège Éducacentre were able to project themselves into the shoes of a patient and become aware of his or her experience. This scenario allows learners to improve their patient-centered approach.

In short, the health crisis that we have been experiencing for a few years now has demonstrated the importance of immersive technologies in the health field and in many other areas. Whether to accompany patients, to treat, to operate, to diagnose or to train, virtual reality is now an ally for medical professionals.

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