Virtual reality methods, including surround sound and three-dimensional imaging have been used in diagnosis, treatment, and education. Its initial applications in medicine involved visualization of the complex data sets produced by computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging scans. A current application of these methods for diagnostic purposes is the “virtual colonoscopy,” in which the data from a CT scan is used to make a “fly-through” of the colon. Then, the professional would use this fly through for the purposes of colon cancer screening. Recent developments in methodology have brought the specificity and sensitivity of this technique closer to the levels of the optical colonoscopy, and the patients choose the technique to the traditional method.
Virtual reality has also been utilized to cure certain phobias (like the fear of heights, and the flying spiders) as well as the post-traumatic stress disorder. This type of therapy has been shown to be effective in the academic setting, and a lot of commercial entities now provide it to the patients.
Virtual reality has been used to deliver medical education regarding the healthcare responses to emergencies like the plane crashes, earthquakes, and fires. While the primary advantage in phobia remedy is a “safe environment” which patients can discover, the main advantage in emergency preparedness is the simulation of occurrences that are either too rare or dangerous for real-world training. The immersive nature of the virtual reality helps in recreating the sense of panic or urgency associated with these events.
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Virtual reality programs have been used for a wide range of mass casualty, medical emergency, and disaster response training sessions for public and medical health professionals. One study developed a protocol for training physicians to treat victims of chemical-origin mass casualties as well as victims of biological agents using simulated patients. Even though it was discovered that through the standardized patients for the training was more realistic and economical, the computer-based simulations delivered a number of benefits over the live training. These included increased cost effectiveness, the chance to execute the training sessions over and over to improve knowledge and skills, and the ability to use “just-in-time” learning techniques and experience the training session at any location and time, while adjusting the level and type of expertise required to use the training for emergency response professionals. Others have discovered the potential for training emergency responder for primary health emergencies through a virtual reality. Their objective was to increase exposure to life-like emergency situations to enhance the decision-making and performance and decrease the psychological distress in real health emergencies.
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Experience with current terrorist acts and natural disasters has shown that good communication and coordination between responder is crucial to an efficient response. The programs of virtual reality can support numerous users, each connecting to the system through a standard office by means of a high speed or broadband Internet access as well as the personal computers.