On Sunday, October 15, at the #MidwestMHSLA17 Conference, I attended the NN/LM GMR Technology Topic on Virtual Reality. I had a small hand in helping plan this event, as I was tasked with soliciting vendors for a raffle prize to encourage attendance. After a few emails to my local EBSCO rep, they donated a cool little View-Master Deluxe VR Viewer which reminded me of a toy I had as a kid. This one, however, works with a smartphone and allows for an inexpensive entry into the world of virtual reality.
As further preparation for the conference, I had read an article in Forbes Magazine entitled How VR Saves Lives In The OR which explored uses of virtual reality in medicine in seven areas: training, education, visualization, psychology, telehealth and telesurgery, screen consolidation and physical training, health, and fitness. I was fascinated by the new applications on the healthcare horizon, things like: mapping CT scans onto a patient’s body, surgical simulations with haptic feedback, flight simulator-like surgery rehearsals, and more. There is great promise in using VR to improve the medical education process.
At the GMR Tech Topic, Jennifer Herron, Jason Lilly, and Kellie Kaneshiro, all of Indiana University Ruth Lilly Medical Library, served on a panel to explore the use of virtual reality in medical practice. Being good librarians, they performed a search of Clinicaltrials.gov with the key words “virtual reality” and found 439 studies spanning 350 conditions. They found three general categories of use beyond education: rehabilitation, pain management, and psychiatric disorders.
They introduced us to CAREN, the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment system, which is a multi-sensory system for the analysis, evaluation and rehabilitation of the balance system, especially for injured war veterans. Then they showed us how VR is also being considered as an alternative method of analgesia, for example during labor in the VRAIL Pilot Study (Virtual Reality Analgesia in Labor). Other VR innovations are being used to prevent and treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The STRIVE and Bravemind systems benefit service members who may need both physical and psychiatric rehabilitation.
Despite all these amazing applications of VR, the panel from IU also noted that one disadvantage of VR is that it may cause motion sickness. This problem is more pronounced in women due to differences in their postural sway while maintaining balance. In an interesting aside, the panelists suggested that there is a need for more female VR system designers to help mitigate this problem.
The panel concluded by sharing a list of the many health sciences libraries across the country which are hosting Tech Hubs, Technology Labs, Innovation Spaces and Sandboxes. In a nice followup on Sunday evening, Kellie, Jennifer and Jason held their own VR petting zoo, while karaoke was simultaneously going on at the front of the room. They set up a full VR system and also demonstrated the Virtuali-Tee by Curiscope which gives the VR user a guided tour inside the human body.
The VR Technology Forum was a fascinating, eye-opening, and fun introduction into VR in medicine. Thank you to the NN/LM GMR and Indiana University Ruth Lilly Medical Library for this excellent addition to the conference, and congratulations to Karen Hanus, the winner of the Viewmaster!