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Serious Games Increasingly Well-Received In The Health Economy

Image credit: VR Airway Lab by Arch Virtual

The Healthcare Industry (also called the Medical Industry or Health Economy) is an aggregation and integration of sectors within the economic system that provides goods and services to treat patients with curative, preventive, rehabilitative, and palliative care. The modern healthcare industry is divided into many sectors and depends on interdisciplinary teams of trained professionals and paraprofessionals to meet health needs of individuals and populations. Consuming over 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) of most developed nations, healthcare can form an enormous part of a country's economy.

The use of Serious Games in healthcare is fast-growing in a number of different fronts such as Serious Games for cognitive rehabilitation and physical therapy ; Serious Games for health promotion and education; Serious Games for educating and training healthcare professionals; Serious Games for patient distraction and pain relief (source: Norwegian Centre for E-Health Research Fact-sheet-2016-11-Serious-Games-in-Healthcare.pdf).

At the same time, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are gradually finding their way into healthcare practice where they have already proven to be effective in treating a range of conditions and improving patients' health and well-being.

“What's changing drastically now is the capability to inject much more robust and usable applications into these environments like never before", says Ben Sawyer.

Serious Games for Physical Therapy
Image credit: Israeli start-up VRPhysio® is at the forefront of harnessing gaming technology to help treat neck, spinal and other injuries

Serious Games For Health Promotion And Education
Image credit: Tako Dojo game by Grifo Multimedia, designed to meet the needs of young patients with diabetes, encouraging self-empowerment for independent management of their disease, and supporting treatment adherence

Image credit: Stanford University School of Medicine Pioneering Use Of VR For Patient Engagement

Serious Games For Educating And Training Healthcare Professionals
Image credit: VR Airway Lab by Arch Virtual helps learners understand the basics and best practices of airway management

Video Games As A Pain Distraction Mechanism
Image credit: UT Health San Antonio tailors treatments to each patient's condition by creating enjoyable distractions during painful situations

“Gaming in the Healthcare Industry is extremely well-received and accepted by everyone from administrators to practitioners, who recognized the power and potential Serious Games have for patient treatment,” says Katrin Becker, Ph.D., a computer science educator at Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary and an internationally known expert in the design and analysis of Serious Games, in a recent interview to the Calgary Journal.

A recent study by the University of Cambridge suggests that mental health and the treatment of anxiety through VR gaming is comparable in efficacy to face-to-face therapy.

“VR has the potential to transform the assessment, understanding and treatment of mental health problems. The capability of VR to simulate reality could greatly increase access to psychological therapies, while treatment outcomes could be enhanced by the technology’s ability to create new realities. VR may merit the level of attention given to neuroimaging,” concludes the study.

Augmented reality (AR) differs from VR in that users do not lose touch with reality.  As AR works with everyday mobile technology and it puts information in eyesight as fast as possible, it has strong potential for the future. Augmented reality offers a new way to interact with data hands-free, which will provide a greater level of control and access to knowledge. 

Image credit: The AccuVein scanner uses augmented reality to digitally display a map of veins on the skin in real time, to make it easier to draw blood. A handheld scanner projects on the skin and shows the patients’ veins. It increases the successful finding the vein from the first try in 3.5 times

With advances in technologies and revolutions in patient, trainee, and public expectations, the global Health Economy is increasingly turning to VR, AR and video game technologies to provide realistic and adaptive virtual environments, proven to be motivational and beneficial in healthcare.