Why VR will revolutionize physical therapy

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As a physical therapist I’m really excited to see where virtual reality is going.

In Denmark we are seeing a dawning interest for the tech and we see more and more clinics, hospitals and rehabilitation centers adopting VR.

When teaching students about technology one of the biggest things I try to get across is that technology is here to make our jobs easier and not something to fear.

Physical therapists are naturally conservative so here’s my bit to make sure that this new technology helps us.

It’s fun and motivational.

Let’s be honest. Doing exercises is boring. Studies say that only 30% of exercises get done when people leave rehabilitation. As a physical therapist I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to see peoples rehabilitation take so much longer because they don’t do their “homework”.

Studies say that only 30% of exercises get done when people leave the rehabilitation.

I think that this is where VR has one of its biggest strengths. The ability to hide exercises in games hold huge potential. We know that games can be habit forming. So why not use games to form peoples rehabilitation habits?

Especially in the early stages of rehabilitation the amount of work you do has a big impact on the outcome of your injury or operation. I personally cant wait to see VR implemented in hospitals.

Imagine when people wake up from surgery they are treated with a plethora of games that they can play to pass the time, but that also measure pain, range of motion etc.

Tracking activities and quality of movement.

The Nintendo WII was adopted in a lot of carefacilities in my country, but they didn’t see much use. One of the reasons is that the quality of motion that the Wii offered wasn’t sufficient to give a proper rehabilitation experience.

With the vive and oculus we can do so much more in terms of games.

Not only that, but we can track how much the patient is training and the quality of their motion. All delicious data for a physical therapist.

With the VR technology of today the tracking has become so much better. This allows developers to create even more engaging games that assure the quality of what the patient is doing. Our dev lab have just gotten our hands on the Vive Tracker and cant wait to see what stuff we will come up with.

Physical therapists everywhere

Another great thing we wil be seeing in the near future is Remote training and follow up .

When its time for a follow up the patient just puts on his or her headset and a physical therapist appears right beside them.

With the announcement of the vive focus and other stand alone headsets we are closer than ever to having physical therapists pop up in the virtual space. Think of it.

A patients has been sent home after an operation with a headset.

When its time for a follow up the patient just puts on his or her headset and a physical therapist appears right beside them.

Here they can have a conversation about how the rehab is going. The physical therapist can review the data gathered from the patients rehab games and assess where to go from there. I think that especially in rural areas this will make a world of difference.

Simulation and teaching

The potential for teaching both physical therapists and patients in VR is enormous. Having the ability to teach patients in virtual reality in the art of pain management, wound management and other things will be invaluable.

It will increase the patients ability to take care of them selves and in turn help their recovery time. What I think is amazing about teaching with VR is not only the fidelity and immersiveness of the experience but also the ability to repeat lessons ad infinitum.

If you combine this with a gamification we could be on the verge of a patient knowledge revolution.

Big data on movement.

To be honest. This one of the things I’m most excited about. Just like fit bits are predicting when we will have a heartattack, I think once we start gathering movement data on different diagnosis’ things will start getting interesting.

The prospect of our VR games being able to present the therapist with different diagnoses based on how the paitent moves is incredible.

I cat wait for our VR rehab games to become intelligent.

It’s all up to the developers

The way I see it, there’s a very bright future in store for physical therapy (and a whole lot of other fields).

But we can root for technology and all its wonders until the cows come home. It wont mean a thing unless the developers make it easy and a joy to use.

Physical therapists, hospitals and other places wanting to implement this technology want to see applications that benefit them, not hinder them. So to all the developers reading this, remember to talk to both therapists and patients if you want to work out.

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