After the digital diagnosis and patient, mobile health, big data and Internet of Me, it was in virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) that the e-Health Day immersed us for its 5th edition. True societal phenomenon, the technology is known to have invested in particular the field of leisure. What about applications in the health field? This is the issue addressed by the event, which, through the sharing of concrete cases, has provided a comprehensive overview of its issues and challenges. Partner of the event, Alp ICT is pleased to share a selection of innovative clinical and therapeutic practices made possible by immersive technologies.
Professor Spiegel, director of health services research and professor of medicine and public health at UCLA, heads the largest VR medical experiment program at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The idea was initially to improve the experience of patients in their hospital room by making them travel with VR (different visualizations are available and adapted on a case by case basis). Statistics on 500 patients demonstrate that VR experiences reduce pain more severely than 2D technology. Some tests have even shown that the use of VR in a hospital room improves the patient’s symptoms, his sleep and his hospital stay. These results are better than the effects of conventional treatment or therapy. Studies are widening and multiplying in order to benefit from stronger data in the near future.
New medical applications for the treatment of neuropathic pain were presented by Bruno Herbelin, deputy director of the Center for Neuroprostheses at EPFL. By combining neuroprostheses, knowledge in cognitive sciences and immersive technologies, new solutions linked in particular to bodily illusions are developed. The “Rubber Hand Illusion”, which consists of the integration of a virtual hand as our own, has a psychological impact, namely the subjective sensation of possessing this external member. Thus, VR associated with neuroprostheses improve the perception and sensation of an amputee’s ghost limb. This illusion is also used against the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) via the virtual disincarnation of the painful limb, which leads to a disappearance of the pain.
Augmented reality allows for much more precise automated surgery, starting with assistance and moving towards more and more complex support. As demonstrated by Luc Soler, R&D director at IRCAD and Professor PAST at IHU, VR & AR increase the surgeon’s gesture, sight and even soon his cognitive abilities.
Henrique Galvan Debarba, senior researcher at Artanim Foundation, is working on the HoloMed project: a holographic AR tool for surgery that allows the visualization and analysis of anatomy in real time and in motion, which in the long term aims to be used in the operating room.
4) Mental disorders
Several ongoing research test the possibility of confronting the phobics to their fears with VR. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) – which treats an illness by plunging the patient into a situation – is recognized for its effectiveness compared to other treatments available. Today, immersive technologies allow us to go even further, according to Dr Eric Malbos, a psychiatrist and specialist in virtual reality treatment at CHU Conception. The “virtual reality therapy” deals with various pathologies (eating disorders, addiction, schizophrenia, OCD, anxiety disorders and various phobias). Reality is replaced by artificially created stimuli. The benefits are many, including a controlled indoor environment, reducing unpredictable reactions, saving time and cost.
MindMaze and Lambda Health System are two Swiss companies that develop rehabilitation devices for people with locomotor disabilities following a stroke. Immersive technologies can indeed be used to improve a motor impairment. The expertise of the therapist combined with the precision of a robot with learning mode allows to increase the intensity of the training. This customizable support can be combined with a game in a virtual environment for its motivational qualities, but also to augment the feedback to the patient in order to improve motor learning. This is what the Lambda Robot (VR combined with haptic rehab robot) offers, which also demonstrates that our 5 senses – and not just vision – facilitate immersion in virtual reality.