Wellness Wednesday: Healthcare Professionals Are Looking to Soothe Patients’ Pain Using Virtual Reality. 

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Healthy Mind, a virtual reality startup company based in France, is seeking to help people manage their pain by combining medical hypnosis and virtual reality, also known as VR, in an effort to decrease medicine dosages. 

“When patients are given medication to calm them down and relieve pain, they have to take more and more over the longer term so that it keeps working,” said co-founder Reda Khouadra in conversation with business site, Innovation Origin. “This is not desirable as there are adverse side effects to medications.”

The company uses headsets to put the patients into an immersive 3D world. In the 3D world, the patients are surrounded by a natural setting ranging from the snowy mountainside to the beach. Through a special pair of headphones attached to the VR headset, the patients are played tranquil ambiance music made specifically by medical specialists for relaxation and pain management purposes.

Mixing medical hypnosis into the mix, the patients are also led into a hypnotic state by a gentle voice. In this state, they’re put in the most calm, relaxed state they can be in so they can gain control of their focus and concentration. With this increased level of awareness of their own body, the patients can be in charge of the pain levels they’re feeling. 

Khouadra and co-founder Timothée Cabanne first came up with the idea while watching their own parents struggle with debilitating diseases. As medications began to work less and less with them, they became more and more involved in VR as a pain management tool. Initially, Khouadra says, however, they had difficulty getting others interested.

“In 2016, right before we officially founded Healthy Mind, we phoned over two hundred people in the healthcare industry to ask if they would be willing to use our software,” Khouadra said in the interview with Innovation Origin. “Only a few wanted to be involved, and we are still working with them.” 

Once VR started to gain popularity in gaming, studies using it as a way to reduce pain also began to be conducted. In a 2017 study published by the American Burn Association, researchers recorded how much the dosage of opioids was required for those using a VR headset during wound care versus how much was required for those that weren’t using a headset. The results of the study found that 38% less medicine was required for those using VR. 

In another 2020 study presented at the Congress of the French Society of Anesthesia and Resuscitation (SFAR), researchers found that VR was able to decrease the amount of morphine given to children undergoing surgery for scoliosis by 80%.

“More and more start-ups and companies are developing VR for healthcare,” said Khouadra in the interview with Innovation Origin. “It is a new tool that healthcare can take advantage of.”

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