When you think of virtual reality, what comes to mind?
Consumers may imagine interactive video games, or mind-bending movies like The Matrix. But healthcare professionals have been watching virtual reality (VR) move far beyond entertainment. In fact, the global healthcare VR market was $885.7 million in 2020, and is projected to grow to $11.7 billion in 2028.
What does that mean for behavioral health?
Here are three big ways that VR could help providers and clients.
1. Effective Trauma Treatment
Although the technology has advanced rapidly in the last decade, the use of VR for mental health is older than you may realize. Since the 1990s, the U.S. Veterans Affairs has been studying the use of VR to help treat combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). VR allows veterans to revisit disturbing memories under controlled conditions, with a therapist’s guidance.
VR serves as a type of prolonged exposure therapy. Research indicates that VR treatment could help with schizophrenia, dementia, PTSD, anxiety disorders, paranoia, delusions, and some phobias. It can be helpful in individuals who have not gotten satisfactory results with standard treatments, such as talk therapy or medications.
2. Substance Misuse Prevention
Many patients who experience severe pain, whether acute or chronic, only experience relief with strong opioid medications. However, the use of opioid painkillers carries the risk of misuse and dependence, creating additional problems for patients.
Researchers have been finding that VR could help with pain management instead. VR programs can help create environments that reduce anxiety before a procedure, or even provide a soothing distraction during a procedure. The Los Angeles-based company AppliedVR has developed an opioid-sparing treatment for chronic pain that incorporates elements of cognitive behavioral therapy.
3. Advancing Telehealth
After getting a big push forward during the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth is not going anywhere. VR promises to keep the momentum going with new opportunities for remote mental healthcare.
Writing for the World Economic Forum, Poppy Brown of the University of Oxford notes that many types of VR-based therapy can be automated, allowing clients to receive guidance from a virtual coach. This removes the need for a human therapist to be physically present for every session. This can allow more people to access treatment, lower therapy cost, and reduce burdens for clinicians.
VR carries enormous potential for many behavioral health conditions. While the technology is still improving (physical issues like motion sickness can still be an issue), it can help create a controlled environment for clients receiving mental health treatment. Because of its relative novelty, and because not all VR software or programs have been thoroughly studied, both clinicians and consumers should use caution and good judgment when choosing to use VR in healthcare.
Staying on the cutting edge of behavioral healthcare is essential for keeping your practice valuable and effective. While we’re not in the VR business yet, BestNotes is committed to developing software that helps your practice function more efficiently, reducing the administrative burden for clinicians so they have more time to do what they do best.
Get in touch with us today to take the next step in a more profitable and less frustrating workflow!