WE/AR Blog AR/MR/VR for Healthcare: Benefits for Doctors, Nurses, and Patients
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AR/MR/VR for Healthcare: Benefits for Doctors, Nurses, and Patients

By Veronika Petrenko
9 min read

Healthcare industry is evolving rapidly, however, most clinics still struggle to solve the same problems they couldn’t solve for years.

Employees training is costly and challenging, the safety and wellbeing of patients are at risk for serious surgeries. The effectiveness of some methods of treatment is critically small.

Nevertheless, healthcare industry still remains a great source of profit that’s why Google, Microsoft, and Facebook are already attuning their gadgets to enter $3 trillion healthcare industry. They know that medicine will become more effective, personalized, and more precise.

The thing is a lot of problems in the healthcare sector can be solved with the help of latest technology. Virtual reality surgery, virtual reality training for medical students, treatment of PTSD with the help of VR glasses. All these trends are already being implemented in medicine in Northern America and Europe.

For instance, VR can reduce expenses in healthcare a lot.  It costs $3000 for an average elderly care facility to train one employee to perform tracheal insertion. Yet an employee could learn how to do it with a live person only. Before virtual reality training made its way in medicine.

With VR software this cost may be reduced to $40 for a person.

So you see, everyone will benefit from AR/VR/MR implementation in medical practices. We have conducted a research and talked to experts in healthcare to understand the true value of VR, AR, and MR for healthcare.

The most important thing about medical school is that there is so much information to remember that only people with an excellent memory can go through it with flying colors. Luckily, today students can use virtual, augmented, and mixed reality training. MR, AR, and VR make it possible for future doctors to learn in an integrated way and to finally see and experience the human body from a fresh perspective. And to remember more using visual memory.

Today students receive the 4th, and probably the most important opportunity for studying a human body with the help of MR goggles. That’s real MR doctor training. Professors compare this possibility to X-ray vision and praise the new technology.

The result of the cooperation of Microsoft and Case Western University was inspiring for both teachers and students. Medical students claim that studying human body with the help of VR and AR finally gives them a chance to experience it fully. To see how the brain processes information, how the lungs move, how the heart is pumping blood.

It`s a priceless opportunity for them!

Virtual Reality in Surgery 

To be a successful surgeon one must be excellent in the visualization of a human body. For instance, how comfortable it is to operate on the heart of the person (which is a 3D object basically) using CT images only?

I tell you how hard it is: try to imagine an object in 3D and then deconstruct it in hundreds and thousands of little parts keeping them all 3D in your imagination.

That’s the thing you won’t be able to do unless… you have VR goggles. It turns out that even the cheapest cardboard glasses that cost $15 can make a difference during a complex and serious surgery. Virtual reality in surgery is the next big thing, no doubts. This is the story of how a pair of the cheapest VR goggles can save a human life because they have a broader perspective on body organs.

Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality offer surgeons a unique opportunity to get ready for the most unpredictable surgery.  By converting 2D patient’s scans (CT, MRI) into patient-specific VR reconstructions.

In other words, virtual, augmented, and mixed reality will help surgeons to plan the whole surgery in advance.

VR/AR in Medical Practice

An average doctor has to keep some incredible amount of data in his head while scientists say that we can only deal and operate with 5 chunks of information at a time. That’s when AR glasses come into play turning a humble general practitioner into the Ironman.

First, he gets a chance to examine a patient keeping all his case history at the distance of the hand. More accurate results are guaranteed. Yes, you may soon be examined by a doc in HoloLens.

AR/MR/VR for medicine means technologies for both patients and doctors. I would even say that it offers much more opportunities for patients.

VR/AR for Pain Management 

Humanity would not be able to survive without effective analgesics (or we could but that would be a tough life). The evolution of painkillers was long and nobody could predict that it would lead to the opioids epidemic in the United States. Yes, now we can swallow a pill and forget even about the most torturing pain. But the price we pay for such an easy fix seems too high already.  

VR pain management is a healthier and less addictive alternative to OxyContin. Why? Well, it doesn’t have adverse effects, it’s safer and it VR proves to be effective and some doctors and clinics are already integrating it into their practice.

VR for pain management works, that what the medical journals say:

Using VR for decreasing pain and unpleasantness proved to be effective; Patients with burn reported decrease in pain intensity and anxiety Children undergoing routine medical procedure in VR reported lower level of pain as well; VR pain management is particularly important for people who suffer from chronic pain: in the study of the possibilities of VR patients demonstrated at least 50% of pain reduction.

Yet researchers still do not agree on how exactly it works: it might be connected to the alteration of neurochemistry or/and changes in emotional and attention processes.

One thing is clear: it is effective and accessible. So you should try it.

Surgery Visualization in VR

Now we have all the information in the world at our fingertips but does it matter if we don’t know how our body works? The idea of undergoing a surgery and spending some time in a hospital causes serious stress and anxiety to most people.

Patients don’t know what to expect. Ignorance provokes fear, that’s the law of psychology. More than that, a higher level of anxiety correlates with a higher risk of negative effects of the operation, especially among heart patients.

In Sunnybrook hospital, there are special virtual reality tours for patients who are getting ready for surgery. 2 weeks before the surgery patients go through a virtual reality tour which shows what exactly will happen to them.

Patients who go through this virtual reality tour say that they feel less anxious and even a bit excited about surgery as they want to compare the difference between real and virtual surgeries. So the virtual reality is the best means of visualization of sometimes the most difficult things.

VR for Phobias Management and PTSD

Virtual reality for PTSD is one of the most perspective directions of counseling because it offers to patients something therapists can’t offer: safe and controllable exposure of their worst fears.

Sometimes even with blood and guts. But it’s better to experience flashbacks in a company of the experienced therapist than alone. The sense of VR exposure therapy is to help soldiers face their past, deal with it, and let it go successfully. 

Bloomberg claims that virtual reality for PTSD can solve this problem more effectively than all existing types of therapy because it can help even those soldiers for whom traditional treatment didn’t work at all.

That’s because virtual reality for PTSD is the closest possible simulation of the battlefield experience with the help of realistic visual, auditory, tactile (sometimes even olfactory) stimuli. It can help to solve the problem of exhausting and annoying PTSD in a couple of months while traditional therapy can take years.

VR exposure therapy is also effective in the treatment of various phobias.  Chris Brewin, professor of clinical psychology at University College London, predicts that  VR for phobias treatment will become the most popular method of therapy soon.

VR Meditation 

Neurobiologists keep repeating how good meditation is (check this list of 7 benefits of meditation from Forbes) but most people still don’t find much time or motivation to sit and meditate. Even if they feel anxious, depressed or lack concentration. That’s when VR comes into play.

VR goggles is the thing that doesn’t stand excuses: just sit and meditate for God’s sake. VR for meditation is probably what VR was created for: they match together like pizza and Netflix.

VR goggles isolate person from the real world and create a sense of full immersion. It’s the ultimate possibility to concentrate on breathing and “being here and now”. VR for meditation works well for people with panic attacks and for those who get anxious easily.

VR/AR for Nurses 

Nurses perform hundreds of small but important operations that could be done more effectively with the help of AR. For instance, an ar app can overlay an actual image of the blood system on the human body for easier blood withdrawal.

Because some people have almost invisible veins and even the most experienced nurses can feel more comfortable.

Nurses can also receive much better VR medical training today to work more effectively. In a nutshell, using VR, nurses can most common types of procedures on virtual patients to improve their skills.


When people say that technologies are destroying the world, I advise them to google “VR in medicine” or “MR doctor training”.

When they see surgeons who feel much more confident about performing complex and challenging operations, they start to doubt their perception of technologies. When they see that medical students are capable of exploring human body as if they’d have X-Ray vision, they understand that they were wrong about VR/AR/MR technologies.

Then I advise them to google “VR for pain management” and they get hooked.

If you know how to use VR/AR/MR for the benefit, you will find thousands of methods, especially in medicine. Want to know how the healthcare industry will change in the future? Try on HoloLens or HTC Vive and watch it.

The future of medicine is virtual, mixed, and augmented and the hospital will use AR/MR/VR more and more. Not because it’s trendy. But because VR/MR/AR offers doctors, nurses, and patients so many improvements that it’s impossible to deny it or ignore it. VR/AR/MR offer even more to hospitals in terms of costs reduction for medical training.