There can be many applications in the healthcare field that benefit from using virtual reality. Dr. Spiegel has spoken on how virtual reality might be the answer to managing chronic pain. Over the course of ninety days, a study showed significant changes in patients’ pain levels after wearing a headset. 

Some healthcare professionals are also utilizing this technology in many other ways. Virtual reality has provided student doctors advance medical training, has increased marketing, and educates the public. 

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Is Virtual Reality The Ultimate Antidote To Fight Mental Health Crises?

virtual reality is now being used in healthcare

At least 13% of the global population suffers from mental health issues or substance abuse disorders. This number has only gotten higher ever since the pandemic started. Mental health facilities were already underfunded in most countries; the lockdown constricted their availability even further, as WHO noted. 

But, cooped up inside the four walls of their homes, people cannot receive the medical help and support they need. As a result, the situation only keeps getting worse. More people being isolated has renewed the discourse of the need for a more suitable and effective means, maybe through healthcare software, to provide help to people who need it safely and efficiently. 

Currently, mental health assessments are severely fraught with faults and drawbacks, primarily because of the use of an open-loop feedback mechanism to judge how people are faring and due to the reliance on a third-person perspective to guide a person to health. 

Now, this might work for physical ailments, but mental issues are far more complicated. The brain is a complex organ that is highly responsive to external stimuli and shows quick reactions to them. 

Therefore, using a sterile environment and one-way information flow does not accurately catch the accurate picture. Healthcare software companies are trying to develop more effective techniques for the same.

Alternova, a digital health software developer, provides quality software designed for the future of medical technology. 

The Current Cognitive Crisis

mental health is at an all time high

The global statistics on mental health are severely under-represented. The reason is simple: scientists and doctors are yet to develop assessment methods and standards to indicate and measure a person’s mental health correctly. There is not even a basal standard to define the perfect state of mental health in a person. 

Worse, mental health and cognitive development have been primarily calibrated by an essentially ableist medical community using the Caucasian male as the basis of its studies. As a result, minority groups are severely misdiagnosed or left undiagnosed in most cases. Misdiagnosed and undiagnosed conditions, of course, are a problem that has persisted throughout the ages. 

A more recent addition to the mix is that of technological advancement. But it is not in the way that most people like to interpret. Technology is a natural outcome of industrial development. The usage of technology requires the use of mental faculties in the same way as for any other activity that requires cognitive applications. 

However, the problem arises when we look at the amount of information people are exposed to these days. 

Adam Gazzaley explains this well in his article “The Cognition Crisis.” He puts forth two significant arguments to support this view. He talks about how humans are wired in a way that compels them to seek knowledge. In simple words, people are curious creatures. 

However, in the present age, with the globalization and universalization of information technology, not only is the transition towards more advanced systems happening more rapidly, but information has also become more easily available and accessible to people. Consequently, the flow of information has become so overwhelming that the cognition of an average person just cannot keep up. 

The second point is that the widespread introduction of technology in all realms of life has resulted in people interacting with some kind of device for most of their day. This tech addiction has hindered the pursuit of other activities that are essential for the healthy development of cognitive abilities in a person. 

In his article “How mobile tech can influence our brain,” he further goes on to classify the pervasiveness of technology as a kind of ambient noise that interferes with our cognitive functions and reduces its full potential from that of a “one-track mind.” 

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Both the overload of information on our brains at a higher rate than that of cognitive evolution and the unidimensional exercise of cognition granted by technology use have resulted in cognitive deficiencies in attention, memory, emotional regulation, sensory stimulation, and decision-making areas. 

Do doctors use virtual reality?

doctors use virtual reality as a fitting tool for mental health

Empathy is a powerful tool for doctors, and using virtual reality simulations is helping close the gap. Dr. Spiegel spoke on how challenging it can be for a Dr. to understand some situations. For example, unless you struggle with Parkinson’s disease, the VR system will offer real insight into a patient’s day.

Why Virtual Reality Is A Fitting Tool For Mental Health Assessment And Treatment?

Closed-loop interactive games and activities provide a simulation that is closest to what a human being naturally experiences in the world. Therefore, they are best able to emulate the real-life conditions that cause both the impact and the reaction in people, which act as mental health indicators. 

Healthcare software development using virtual reality will help mental health assessments and treatment more than either 2D digital media or real-life situations. 

The paper “Enhanced Attention Using Head-mounted Virtual Reality” gives a suitable account supporting the first point. It shows that media fed to the subjects via VR elicited a better response in terms of attention from the subjects than 2D media could. Both behavioral evaluation and neural monitoring corroborated this result. 

Shifting the perspective from strictly scientific to a more practical one, we must also agree that VR can emulate many treatment conditions that are impractical or expensive to prescribe or perform. Moreover, the treatment for several cases is simply desensitization to the object or source of stress and trauma. 

Hence, if a person has acrophobia or fear of heights, it makes more sense to use VR to accustom the person to heights rather than get them to climb to progressively higher places. Similarly, if someone has PTSD from war, VR used to recreate certain situations with gradually increasing escalation sounds infinitely saner than putting the person in the middle of an actual war zone. 

The set-up for such studies is not yet as advanced as we would want them to be, let alone a healthcare software that patients can operate themselves. A proper closed-loop system should consist of a VR or AR environment in which the outcome is influenced by the reactions of the subject recorded and fed back into the system via motion capture, as illustrated in “Video Games for Neuro-Cognitive Optimization.” There should also be some neural monitoring and imaging technique used for external observation. 

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To Conclude,

a man using virtual reality as a form of therapy

Today, people are coming to terms with the importance of using video games in the field of mental health for various purposes. Mental health using video games includes the use of VR for combating the mental health crisis. 

With our passion for mental health advocacy married to our love for video games, VR is the perfect child to represent the application of video gaming in cognitive studies and healthcare software services.

Are you looking to take your mental care to a digital level? Alternova can help you make the perfect software for your healthcare needs