Virtual Reality (VR) for healthcare

An affordable remote solution for medical training and rehabilitation. Fully immerse and engage your players in VR for healthcare.
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What is Virtual Reality (VR)?

Anything you can imagine can be created in a computer generated Virtual Reality or “VR” world. With no actual building costs, landscaping, manufacturing or purchasing of stuff. Want a 100-story skyscraper? Done. Want endless fields of wheat?  – done.  Dragons? We’ve got them, along with cardiac cath-labs, operating rooms, a range of patients and anything else you can think of.

In VR everything in it is computer generated, which means it can be hyper-realistic or enable the kind of fantasy immersion you get in dreams.  VR worlds can help you focus and take your pain away or allow you to focus on the magnified detailed anatomical models that can simulate medical procedures.

A VR headset provides “wrap-around” video and the sounds around you. The environment presented to you fills your senses to make the experience real. Technology in the headset and hand controllers respond to head movements and walking, so that you can look around, move around and interact with objects in the VR world in the same ways as you do in the real world. This sense of immersion is what makes the experience so vivid and lifelike.

One of the reasons that VR is so immersive is because of the 3D imaging of the computer-generated world.  This low cost 3D imaging can be used to mimic procedures where depth perception is essential, or where the procedure uses 3D visualization, like robotic surgery or 3D radiological imaging.

In the Grendel studio we play a lot of VR games, and we’re loving the possibilities that lower cost hardware enable for gaming and simulation. As a game studio we’re loving the VR projects we are working on in healthcare. We especially love working out fun ways to draw users into the experience with fun object interactions and tasks, really gamifying the experience.

Virtual Reality has found serious roles in immersive training, from racing cars, to battlefields but one of the greatest potentials for good is in healthcare. As well as the technical training on procedures and devices, VR can simulate the human factors interactions for team training and encourage rehabilitation and exercise.

Hospitals, healthcare workers,  and even patients are discovering the almost magical effect of Virtual Reality in healthcare. And rightly so, because VR can be used in many situations and offers various advantages.

What VR can do for healthcare

VR allows us to do some interesting things for training and simulation.

  • Use the 3D imaging capacity to simulate 3d procedures
  • Use the immersive world to stimulate engagement and learning
  • Create realistic training scenarios, with no patient risk
  • Escape into a soothing parallel reality to relieve stress and pain

And in doing these, VR provides a couple of advantages:

Virtual Reality games are popular because it gives you the chance to step into a completely different world from reality. Fight monsters that seem lifelike or take a ride on the most exciting roller coaster ever without standing in line. The feeling of really being there is called immersion.

This is not only the case with entertainment games with monsters or roller coasters. There are also educational VR experiences that give the same degree of immersion. One example is Reducept: a serious game in which patients learn to cope with chronic pain. Immersion helps to make rehabilitation exercises more fun. As a result, the patient does the exercises more often and for longer, making the treatment more effective. And while the patient enjoys the Virtual Reality experience, the therapist can see progression in the rehabilitation process.

Studies have shown that students who use Virtual Reality to learn, experience more positive emotions. This leads to an improved learning experience when compared to traditional and video learning methods. 

A serious game without VR can often suffice to teach skills. However, there may be particular challenges where it is important to see enough depth. Think of surgeons who have to learn how to operate, in which depth plays a crucial role. By using VR, it is possible to make practice sessions so realistic that the exercise of a surgical procedure can be accurately imitated.

VR gives a better perception of depth than 2D or even 3D games. The experience is closer to the real world in terms of movement and spaciousness and is therefore more realistic, even if the game world is not necessarily realistic. Because of the better perception of depth and closeness to the real world, the actions in VR also feel more natural and intuitive.

Training medical staff can often only be done on-site. Consider using a simulator or practising on a cadaver. These devices or materials are often scarce and cannot be used at home. Virtual Reality can be used at work, but also from the living room. A Virtual Reality environment only needs to be developed once.

Virtual Reality is also easy to use. Of course, the user must be instructed and familiarize themselves with the product. Fortunately, these processes are completed in no time. It is important that the VR glasses are on your head properly and that they are set correctly. Furthermore, people often do not realize the 3D-view you can have with VR. A short instruction such as “look 360 degrees around you” helps someone to become comfortable with the technology. After that, the user can get started on their own.

Low-cost VR headsets that produce really immersive experiences with good-enough graphics and sound, open up brilliant new opportunities for training and education.

It’s long been the Grendel Games view that people train more, not only when it’s fun, but when those training opportunities are available to them any time and any place. That was the rationale behind the award winning, very well researched and validated laparoscopic training game Underground, that used the Nintendo Wii, the most suitable console of the time. We’ve now got a long term view that low-cost VR headsets are the hardware solution, to enable better access to training in a realistic and fun way. How could you use this technology to train your customers remotely, at a fraction of the cost of employing dedicated high cost simulator hardware?


Make training in VR fun!

When we introduced Underground, we proved that when you make deliberate practice fun, people do it more,  and the more you practice, the better you get.  We’ve now got a long term view that low-cost VR headsets are the hardware solution, to enable better access to training in a realistic and fun way and we are loving the way that VR can add fun stuff into training that we would never have dreamed of on a console game or a smartphone game.

Does a serious game work for me?

Do you have an idea for a serious game? Or do you see an opportunity to use serious games in your organization? Take a short assessment to see if a serious game is suitable for your situation and what type you need.

Examples of VR in healthcare

We have vast experience in building Virtual Reality products for healthcare. Below you can see a selection.

Reducept: VR pain management

Reducept, winner of the World Summit Award, helps patients deal with chronic pain. The game also makes patients aware of where their pain comes from. Virtual reality is the success factor of the game. A pilot study with 55 participants showed that 74% participants report an improved quality of life (Tilma, L., Benthem, K., & Reinders-Messelink, H. (2020) ‘Results and experiences of long term reducept training in a physiotherapy setting’). Data collected in game through thousands of training sessions, shows a decrease in pain in 77% of the sessions by an average of 2 points (out of 10).

In Reducept, the player moves in the world of a blood cell travelling through the body. By playing the game, patients learn more about how pain works and how they can influence their perception of pain. This leads to chronic-pain understanding and management. They learn ways to control pain (outside the game). VR ensures that the player can actually make a realistic journey through the body.

Realistic Tissue Rendering in VR

We set a challenge, to the development team here, to make the most realistic model of the endoscopic anatomy of the prostate and bladder possible, that we could use in a VR application and this is the result.

We’re looking at passing an endoscope down the urethra. As we travel down the urethra we come into the prostate gland and have a look around. If we push a bit further and come into the bladder we can see where the tube from the kidney enters the bladder. Then back to the prostate where we push out a laser fibre and begin to make a laser incission into the prostate. If you can create interactable anatomical models with this level of realism in realtime, you can deploy them on phones, tablets and consumer grade VR headsets. And that means better access to training at a lower cost of delivery.

Learn more about VR for healthcare

We do it together

Not two questions or problems are the same. We have adapted our process for this through 15 years of continuous improvement of our methods. The dialogue between stakeholders in a project is very important here. That is why we strive to build good relationships. This way we create a cooperation where we appreciate each other’s input and creativity. According to your feedback and that of the development team, we implement changes to the product. All this to make sure that the development of the game is aimed towards your wishes and those of the target audience.

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Contact Glyn Burtt

Do you want to know more about the possibilities of serious games for medical and healthcare applications? Let's discuss what serious games can do for you!

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