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The Rise of Virtual Reality in the Healthcare Space: Transitions and Challenges

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Words: Mr. Kunal Sawhney CEO, Kalkine Photography: Supplied

Since the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, the healthcare sector has been under the spotlight over the immediate need for advanced healthcare infrastructure and life-saving pharmaceutical products. While the impact of the pandemic was detrimental to the healthcare sector in some ways, it brought an avalanche of positive changes, specifically in terms of digital transformation.

One such change was the widespread adoption of Virtual Reality (VR) across different healthcare segments. VR ensured the sustenance of the vibrant sector while pandemic-driven restrictions were kept in place.

For the uninitiated, Virtual Reality allows a computer-aided simulation of real-life events, including medical scenarios. Users get to wear a headset that enables them to enter the simulation and experience the event first-hand. The simulation is not just limited to visuals but also include other senses, like hearing, smelling and even the sense of touch.

Must Read: How is virtual reality transforming the healthcare sector?

The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it the challenging task of curing infected patients, while adhering to social distancing norms. Virtual Reality played an imperative role in bridging the gap between patients and doctors via audio-visual-based virtual communication.

Besides, at a time when healthcare experts were struggling to comprehend the coronavirus disease, VR expanded the scope for research in understanding the evolution of virus, and treatment possibilities. The proper research and study via VR allowed medical researchers to engage in key learnings on the possible virus mutation while the disease was still taking shape.

Besides, the training on the usage of personal protective equipment was also dispersed through advanced technology in various hospitals. This allowed nurses and medical staff to maintain safety and avoid any chances of contracting the virus during training.

VR Transforming the Healthcare Sector

Virtual reality has equipped the healthcare sector with the knowledge of a wide range of possibilities. Now doctors and medical staff can simulate medical emergencies and prepare for them in advance. Above and beyond, VR has also served as a means of developing new life-saving technologies.

VR has also emerged as a novel way to deliver education in the medical field. It allows medical students to have first-hand exposure to an operating theatre and watch the ongoing operation from the surgeon’s eye, which takes medical training to the next level.

Studies suggest that surgeons who have received VR training have performed better than others in an operating room. Observing a professional surgeon perform a surgery leaves a more accurate impression of the operation on the student. Additionally, students in any part of the world can learn from premier surgeons around the globe via VR training.

At the same time, Virtual Reality has evolved as one of the most innovative technologies in calming patients and offering virtual therapy. Different applications of VR in the world of entertainment have proved to be extremely useful for patients suffering from anxiety and undergoing pain management. Virtual landscapes and soothing visuals allow patients to stay emerged in comforting scenarios and distracted from the pain.

Furthermore, doctors and surgeons across the globe are exploring possibilities of combining brain-machine interfaces and VR to help paralysed patients walk again.

Surprisingly, robotic surgeries have also become a reality with the advent of VR technology. Robotic surgeries involve a robotic arm that is guided manually by expert surgeons to operate on a patient. With the help of a robotic arm, the surgery can be conducted with much greater accuracy and precision, particularly in the case of mechanical incisions that are hard to replicate with a human hand.

Challenges to be Addressed

Any new development is generally met with challenges that are discovered only after its implementation. While virtual simulations are an old concept, their implications in the field of medicine are only being realised now. Having said that, few bottlenecks need to be addressed so that full benefits of VR can be utilised.

In the medical domain, the technical limitations arising due to the size of the VR systems remains a major challenge to be tackled. Compact VR versions are less likely to be equipped enough to operate on a patient, limiting their usage. At the same time, the costs attached to a VR system cannot be borne by all medical institutions, making them selectively available to students.

Even if these challenges are met, there persists a question of how flexible the medical industry will be in embracing the technology-augmented tools. Medicine as a profession relies heavily on human experience and the highly intricate level of judgement provided by the human brain. Too much dependence on technology may not be welcome in a field where high bureaucracy standards are maintained.

Though the knowledge of Virtual Reality is still at a primitive stage, researchers are optimistic about the possibilities it brings. With proper research and a more streamlined analysis, VR may evolve as a revolution that the medical industry needs in the contemporary world.

Mr. Kunal Sawhney

CEO, Kalkine Group

Kunal Sawhney: Entrepreneur with revolutionary ideas; financial professional with wealth of knowledge in Equities, aiming to transform the delivery of equity research through tech-driven digital platforms

With his knowledge, skillset, and overarching vision, Kunal established one of the fastest growing equity market research firms across Australia in year 2014; and subsequently, in other emerging & developed markets – Kalkine – A business that is based on Digitally Powered Architecture and Extensive Data Science led Premium Research. Kunal’s entrepreneurial and commercial skills backed by the passion to establish a tech-empowered research platform, helped in building Kalkine’s global presence across diverse geographies – Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Further, the plans for the US launch in 2021, have set the premise for attaining an all-encompassing client reach for Kalkine’s Subscription and Media Operations.

With a Master of Business Administration degree from University of Technology, Sydney; Kunal’s business acumen has enabled his brainchild, Kalkine, help clients navigate through equity related matters in a proficient and seamless manner.

Kunal is featured regularly on CNBC, Sky Business, Biz News, Daily Mail, Yahoo Finance, KCBS Radio (Audacy), Bloomberg, Sydney Morning Herald, Global Banking and Financial Review and many more.

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