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VR for Healthcare: How to Build VR Solutions that Save Lives and Educate Better Doctors

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Today’s cutting-edge technologies are helping to revolutionize business processes, save resources, and in general build more efficient operations across a broad variety of industries. Healthcare in particular has benefited from its successful adoption of Virtual Reality technologies.

Table of contents:

Virtual Reality Development in Healthcare: Facts and Figures

VR Adoption in Healthcare

VR Software Architecture

VR Apps in Healthcare

How to Develop Healthcare VR App

How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Healthcare VR App?

The Future of VR in Healthcare

VR has become a vital tool for education and training of both students and current physicians, as well as assisting in treatment for chronic conditions, precise diagnostics, and many other important facets of healthcare.

In this article, we will examine how exactly healthcare is adopting VR, what types of VR apps are possible and how they are built, and eventually how to build your own VR healthcare solution to train caregivers and save patients’ lives. 

Virtual Reality Development in Healthcare: Facts and Figures

Healthcare is one of the main industries that will continue to adopt VR widely. 

According to a report by Goldman Sachs, the healthcare VR market will reach $5.1 billion by 2025, with North America and Europe expected to be the top regions to adopt VR healthcare.

Healthcare providers and patients agree that VR is a must for the healthcare industry: 82% of healthcare professionals say VR is an efficient tool for education, and 62% of patients are ready to try VR as an alternative to routine care.

VR in healthcare: facts and figures
VR in healthcare: facts and figures

Now let’s see how exactly the healthcare industry adopts VR.

VR Adoption in Healthcare

Although VR is still commonly thought of as an entertainment technology, it has become widely accepted in the healthcare industry. 

Healthcare VR professionals at your service

Let’s develop a thought-out healthcare VR solution together – experienced developers are ready to take a look at your ideas!

Julia Tuskal
Head of Sales
at HQSoftware

As you can see from the aforementioned statistics, VR solutions in healthcare can serve as efficient tools for both patients and caregivers. Here are some ways VR apps are used in healthcare:

Healthcare VR education

VR solutions have been used for some time in healthcare education. Students in all medical fields take advantage of VR technology, using 360-degree video and immersive 3D content to learn new information.

With healthcare VR, developers create complete learning programs for students and practicing physicians. Using such solutions, students learn new skills and obtain knowledge without risking a patient’s health.

For example, Random42 offers a virtual ride into a human body — floating between blood cells, examining how the neural system works, and so on.

Education in healthcare VR
Education in healthcare VR

Virtual diagnostics

VR has shown great potential in the field of healthcare diagnostics. For example, it is successfully used in neuroscience.

NeuroDotVR is a small portable device that measures brain activity in response to visual stimulation coming to the patient through a healthcare VR device.

With just a smartphone, a VR headset, and a NeuroDot device, a therapist can measure neuroelectric data that will help diagnose glaucoma, amblyopia, and the eye’s ability to adapt to darkness.

Diagnostics with healthcare VR
Diagnostics with healthcare VR

Mental illness treatment in VR

Exposure therapy is one of the most efficient methods for treating certain mental disorders.  Healthcare VR can enhance exposure therapy and provide therapists with a flexible and low-risk tool.

With VR, patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can receive exposure to the traumatic event virtually. The whole process is under the therapist’s control and can be altered or stopped at any time if the patient is uncomfortable.

There is even a term for this: Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy, or VRET.

In addition, VR is a useful tool in treating stress and traumas, phobias, eating disorders, and more. See Psious for reference.

Healhtcare VR for mental illness treatment
Healhtcare VR for mental illness treatment

VR for pain management

Patients with chronic pain may suffer their whole lives. For a long time, physicians have treated various types of pain by using distraction methods. Now there are VR solutions in healthcare to revolutionize pain management.

VR apps in healthcare provide a new distraction method — interactive games. The patient is distracted from their pain in a virtual safe space with lots of interactive features. VR is also a solution for those who cannot use drugs for pain management.

BehaVR is one of the companies that focuses on pain management via VR experiences. Their application Balance has proved its effectiveness against chronic pain.

Pain management via VR distraction methods
Pain management via VR distraction methods

Fitness and therapy

Sometimes fitness programs are a choice; sometimes they’re a necessity. Either way, healthcare VR changes how patients approach getting physical exercise. VR can make getting daily exercise a game rather than an exhausting and dull task.

The Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise studies the effect of Virtual Reality–assisted exercise on the human body. One of the examined healthcare VR apps was ThunderGod; in this simulator, the patient has to regularly extend arms, forcefully hit, catch, and throw objects at virtual opponents.

The game was tested by measuring the metabolic rate of oxygen consumption. Energy expended was 3.41 to 4.22 calories per minute for a patient weighing 60 kg.

Fitness and exercise with healthcare VR
Fitness and exercise with healthcare VR

VR for surgery

Virtual Reality is not new in the surgical field; it has been used successfully for some time.

For example, Osso VR is a Virtual Reality surgical training and assessment platform. It helps future surgeons learn and train on virtual patients, increasing their confidence around real patients and shortening the learning curve.

The solution also helps educate surgeons in places that have fewer resources, contributing to solving the global issue of a shortage of surgeons.

Surgery via healthcare VR
Surgery via healthcare VR

Though these apps seem diverse, they have some common operating principles.

Let’s find out how VR software works.

VR Software Architecture

VR apps in healthcare are built differently depending on the type of application, integrated third-party components, servers and clouds, and so on.
But all VR solutions in healthcare will generally include this architecture:

  • Client application. This is what the user sees and interacts with. This part visualizes a VR experience.
  • Database. This app component stores all data that the app requires: user profiles, content, scenarios, and so on. Could be located either on a physical server or in the cloud.
  • Administration panel. This component allows developers and software administrators to control the whole application, both the client part and the database.

Here is a chart, for curious readers:

VR software architecture
VR software architecture

To develop a VR healthcare app, technical specialists usually follow the chart above, but first it’s important to determine what type it will be. Let’s take a look.

VR Apps in Healthcare

There are three types of VR apps in healthcare:

  • Non-immersive
  • Semi-immersive
  • Fully immersive

Non-immersive VR apps have limited capacity — they do not replace everything the user sees; they are just displayed on a screen and the user sees its borders. For example, so-called serious games are widely used in healthcare for training and educational purposes. They have proved their efficiency in enhancing surgeons’ motor skills, attention, and eye-hand coordination.

Semi-immersive VR apps in healthcare replace what the user sees only partly. The user still can distinguish the real world from the simulation easily. This category of VR apps in healthcare is successfully used to improve rehabilitation in patients with chronic pain and injuries.

Fully immersive VR apps in healthcare replace the real world for the user completely. For example, the Oxford Medical Simulation for nurses allows for training nursing skills in a completely virtual environment, with no real-world objects involved.

Types of VR apps in healthcare
Types of VR apps in healthcare

Here’s the process needed to develop a VR healthcare app for your project.

How to Develop Healthcare VR Apps

At HQSoftware, before we begin to actually develop a VR healthcare app we spend time consulting with the client about their needs.

Consulting on VR solutions in healthcare

Consultations to develop a VR healthcare app usually consist of the following steps:

Healthcare VR development stage: consulting
Healthcare VR development stage: consulting
  • We finalize the concept for your future VR solutions in healthcare.
  • We build a roadmap of a development process.
  • We decide on a suitable technology stack.
  • We build a plan for software and hardware integration.

Once these steps are complete, we are ready to develop a VR healthcare app.

Development of your VR solution

The VR development team will complete each of these steps:

  • Perform business analysis, industry research, market research.
  • Build software architecture and consider all pitfalls.
  • Create 3D models and all required visual content.
  • Build a well thought-out UX/UI design.
  • Develop the VR solution itself.
  • Perform testing, find and eliminate bugs.
  • Integrate software and hardware components.
  • Perform maintenance, enhance and update the solution.

When these steps are complete, you can enjoy all the benefits of VR technology for your business.

Healthcare VR development stage: solution building
Healthcare VR development stage: solution building

Now is a great time to corner a niche in the healthcare VR market, as we look forward to huge growth in the market.

How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Healthcare VR App?

Several important factors affect the cost of VR app development:

  • Team composition;
  • Number of features;
  • The complexity of app architecture;
  • Amount of content, and so on.

For a rough estimate, we will take an average hourly developer rate of $35. Developing a VR application with one well thought-out immersive experience and professional healthcare content will cost around $30,000. 

Cost to develop a VR healthcare app
Cost to develop a VR healthcare app

The Future of VR in Healthcare

As mentioned earlier, the healthcare VR market is expected to reach $5.1 billion by 2025. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Here are some of the most promising VR healthcare trends:

Future trends in healthcare VR
Future trends in healthcare VR

As you can see, VR has great untapped potential in healthcare that will only grow with time. If you are interested in developing your own healthcare VR solution, just drop us a line!

Andrei Kazakevich

Head of Production

Oversees all production processes and manages the Quality Assurance department. Develops the company’s IoT, AR, VR, AI, and ML expertise.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Virtual Reality in healthcare?
How can VR be used in healthcare?
What are the benefits of VR?
How does VR for medical education work?
How to develop a healthcare VR application?

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Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality: Getting to Know Them

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