How Healthcare Groups Are Prescribing VR And Video Games
Technology-enabled experiences are being used as treatment options to help patients improve health, manage chronic conditions or forgo medications
Smashing mushrooms as a virtual plumber or pounding the control buttons in a boxing game might at first seem a world away from the realm of health and wellness, but the value of video games and other technologies, such as virtual reality, are steadily increasing beyond the realm of entertainment and into other sectors. This includes the military, where video games have long been used in training practice, and perhaps more surprisingly in healthcare, where technology-enabled experiences are changing the ways patients receive treatment, ultimately improving outcomes in lieu of traditional medications.
Examining the ways in which brands and startups are optimizing consumers’ pharmacy experience, PSFK researchers looked into ‘Technology Rx,’ the growing trend of adaptive technology that is able to personalize healthcare for each individual, including VR and video game treatments that help to reduce the need for pharmaceuticals altogether, in turn limiting risks of medication abuse or addiction. Below, we look at three examples:
Akili Interactive Labs is creating a video game designed to treat kids with ADHD. The game seeks to directly target the key neurological pathways that control attention and impulsivity. The video game, which is played on a tablet, sends players down a molten lava river and through an icy winter wonderland, rewarding them with stars and points as they complete tasks. Akili sees the video game as the delivery system for targeted algorithms that act as a medical device to activate certain neural networks.
Virtual Reality Medical Center
Virtual Reality Medical Center is a medical facility in San Diego that uses VR therapy as a treatment for reducing pain in patients undergoing upper gastrointestinal endoscopy procedures. During an endoscopy procedure patients are shown scenarios, such as an enchanted forest, cliff, castle or beach, through a VR headset. Each of these four environments is clinically proven to reduce stress and pain levels. While monitoring patients vitals during the procedure, researchers found that VR therapy reduced perceived pain and, in turn, the need for medication. By reducing the need for invasive pain management procedures, the Virtual Reality Medical Center has reduced the risks, complications and expenses associated with gastrointestinal endoscopies.
The Swedish pharmacy Apotek Hjärtat is prescribing its VR pain relief app, Happy Place, as a supplement to traditional pharmaceutical pain relief treatments. The Happy Place app—which is compatible with VR headsets and viewers like Google Cardboard—lets patients spend time at a cartoon campsite alongside a lake with the sun or moon shining above them depending on the hour. It is meant to be used with traditional painkillers but also stands alone as a legitimate pain prevention alternative.
Adaptive technologies empower doctors, pharmacists and patients to understand of their needs, while also providing alternative treatments that improve quality of life. For even more insights and examples, check out our recent report Reinventing The Pharmacy Experience.
Lead Image: Woman using VR headset via Shutterstock