Immersive technologies have demonstrable benefits across the healthcare sector. Following on from our ‘Immersive Healthcare: Pain and Distraction’ event in July 2019, Immerse UK’s Carrie Wootten shares her thoughts on this growing – and potentially life changing area of innovation.

The impact of immersive technologies on healthcare has been an area of Immerse UK’s work that has fascinated me, from its potential in training medical practitioners and as a means of communicating with patients, through to its use as a tool for physiotherapy, mental health and wellbeing, pain management… and beyond. I have also seen the growth of the sector change enormously, with more businesses focussed on the development of immersive healthcare products and services.

Over the past 9 months, Immerse UK has co-organised a series of events to delve into these exciting new developments and explore current innovations. We have been debating whether it is living up to the hype and will be adopted broadly across the healthcare sector in the future. Our events have showcased innovations, examined the various immersive solutions and their potential application and the challenges faced, as well as (hopefully) inspiring potential new collaborations.

In July 2019, Immerse UK partnered with Barclays Eagle Lab and the awesome Sarah Ticho from Hatsumi for our latest healthcare event hosted by IDEALondon; a lively evening of presentations, demonstrations and networking to examine the use of VR in pain management. Its potential could be immense; with up to 28 million people in the UK living with pain, health practitioners, researchers, tech innovators and patients are exploring the potential of immersive technologies and its potential to transform pain and offer an alternative to opioids.

And what an inspirational evening it proved to be! We heard from key industry players, including Ivan Phelan from Sheffield Hallam University, Rosie Collins from the The Fred Company, Glenn Hapgood from Rescape and Matt Sansam from Innovate UK.

Key learnings from the event included:

  • The impact of immersive technologies is clear for patients and staff

I think most people think about the impact of VR on patients, but of course, managing pain from a medical perspective is hugely important too, making the situation less stressful and emotional for staff.

  • More robust research and larger trials are needed

We know and can see the real impact for patients – whether this is treating children with burns or someone with a long-term critical illness. But more consistent and larger research trials are needed to convince those at the top that there is real evidence to reduce pain and stress for patients and staff, as well as potentially reduce costs too. Discussions also looked at whether partnering with critical friends in the US could be really beneficial to enabling this to happen too.

  • This is an area of potential growth

For healthcare professionals, these developments offer a tantalising glimpse into a potential revolution in clinical practice, staff training and patient relationships. And for tech innovators and content creators, there’s the potential of forming new and exciting partnerships, developing ground breaking (and life changing) products and services. What’s more, with this comes potential funding opportunities, through public agencies such as the UKRI’s Innovation Funding Service, SBRI Healthcare and the Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), to name but a few.

With such compelling examples of the application and impact of immersive tech in healthcare, our sector has the potential to not just innovate, but to change lives for the better. And I’m sure you’ll agree, that’s something worth exploring further!

Further reading