Virtual reality to improve patient experience in health care
JEDDAH: Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-based three-dimensional imaging sequence that creates a world within a computer system, allowing users to interact with it via a display screen, usually mounted to the face.
Previously, VR had only really impacted the public through video games, but Eng. Faisal Ayman Ashour looked at it differently.
He saw it as a potential non-pharmacologic form of pain relief, by delivering enough sensory information to reduce patient anxiety, eliminating the need for sedatives.
Many hospitals around the world have started experimenting with it. A Calgary hospital recorded 75 percent reductions in discomfort monitoring patients using it, while another at Stanford in the US had similar results when using VR to distract children from receiving previously distressing procedures.
Ashour helped introduce VR to Saudi hospitals last year.
“I always believed every human has a purpose and a mission in this life, we all have talent within us, the challenge is how we develop such a talent. Not to reinvent the wheel and share someone else’s work, but to develop it. VR was invented for entertainment mostly, but such technology can enhance the patient’s quality of life at a low cost,” he said.
The target patients are children and those in palliative care, receiving procedures as simple as a vaccination, or as painful as resetting bones and applying casts.
“I’ve developed and gained more knowledge by merging engineering with medicine. I got my fellowship in medicine to speak the same language as physicians, to develop a solid medical simulation-training program in the Kingdom. Since 2016 I’ve developed several applications involving VR and alternative reality to help patients,” Ashour added.
VR technology in medicine has also been implemented in radiotherapy, CT scans, MRIs, physiotherapy and psychology. This progress hasn’t been without problems, however.
“Introducing such a new technology or concept to be used to replace a previous technique is challenging, especially in the medical field. Experiments must be completed before an idea can be distributed, that sometimes takes more than 10 years,” said Ashour.
“The idea was to engage engineers and physicians to introduce such a modern technology to enhance patient quality of life, and maximize cost efficiency. We have developed more than 10 virtual environments for both medical training purposes, and to improve medical outcomes.”