We attended the Virtual Medicine conference at Cedars Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles where we joined leaders in the virtual reality healthcare space to discuss the latest developments – and applications – of VR in patient care and medical education.

Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS) was proud to join other leading thinkers excited about the potential of virtual reality in healthcare. The Virtual Medicine conference (vMed) brought together not only healthcare professionals, but also researchers, technical developers, business leaders and patients. This made showcasing our virtual reality scenarios for healthcare training during the event all the more special.

As always, we loved getting VR newbies into the system to demo how intuitive VR can be, and it was even more encouraging to get the endorsement of VR experts who live and breath virtual reality in healthcare.

We were excited that when healthcare professionals entered our scenarios for a quick taste they quickly became so immersed that they were determined to save the patient, or delve into the details to find out more. Surprised at the level of realism in one of our virtual patient’s histories, one user at vMed19 announced; “Whoa! I’m going to ask about his social history! I want to know what kind of recreational drugs he uses.” Only in Los Angeles!

Besides the kind words about our own platform, we received a fascinating update into the other ways in which VR is impacting healthcare for the better. From helping to manage pain associated with Crohn’s Disease, to facilitating reminiscence therapy in people with dementia, the applications of therapeutic VR just keep growing. Dr David Rhew (Chief Medical Officer at Samsung Electronics America) gave a compelling talk on the effects of VR on people with dementia, loneliness and concussion amongst a host of other applications. In the case of concussions, VR is now proving to be as effective as sleep, exercise and education. Former Cedars Sinai patient Harmon Clarke recalled how meditating and travelling in VR during his hospital stay, instead of relying solely on pain medication, accelerated his recovery from Crohn’s disease.

The Patient Panel on Day 2 was another highlight: the moving accounts of four patients who had experienced therapeutic VR really brought home the positive results that this technology can have.

Research on the efficacy and optimal methods of delivering VR therapy remains in its infancy and is a fascinating topic. The groundbreaking work done by Skip Rizzo on the applications of VR to treat PTSD and anxiety in particular and Mel Slater on VR in cognitive neuroscience and body-swapping keep us pushing the boundaries of what VR can do and how it can deeply affect individuals perceptions and abilities to learn.

Despite the excitement of the forefront on the technology, the ongoing message of matching appropriate immersive content and delivery to the individual’s needs remains central to all VR design. At OMS we couldn’t agree more. We often ask ourselves and others considering virtual reality “what are your learning objectives?” and ensure that everything we design meets a specific need.

Cedars Sinai Medical Centre proved to be a compelling setting for the event, too. Set against the backdrop of one of the largest academic health centres in the US, the discussions, revelations and real life stories felt even more relevant. It almost felt like we – as a global VR in healthcare community – were more galvanised, united and inspired by physically locating us within the system we’re seeking to change.

It was this collective feeling of inspiration and celebration that made vMed19 such an impactful conference. The world’s leading thinkers and innovators in VR medicine came together in one place to share new developments and celebrate success stories, and we left with a boosted motivation to continue our work in the space. Brennan Spiegel, Director of Health Research at Cedars Sinai and the driving force behind the vMed conference summed up this feeling best when he offered some uplifting advice in his closing remarks: “VR offers joy. Leverage that like crazy.”

Read how Oxford University uses virtual reality to power blended learning and boost medical student education.