Most of us have probably experienced being in physical therapy after an accident, or have watched our loved ones go through it. And many times therapy itself can be a pain: lots of repetitive exercises with little variation, making the patient not only feel the pain more acutely, but get bored. The result of this unfortunate combination of circumstances is that, according to statistics from the Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management Journal, only 35% of patients fully comply with the recommended physical therapy regimens recommended by doctors. Can virtual reality change this?
A New Perspective in Physical Therapy: Virtual Reality Exercises
The answer is an emphatic yes. Virtual reality is already used successfully for rehabilitation of patients who have suffered strokes, and its adoption rate in physical therapy is increasing day by day.
The reason for this is the fact that virtual reality creates a new perspective and a full paradigm shift: instead of doing exercises they see no point in or end results, patients are immersed in a holographic environment which they are eager to explore.
This environment captivates their senses and they are able to perform exactly the same exercises as the ones recommended by the doctor—but without realizing that they are doing physical therapy. Instead, they are feeding virtual animals, climbing mountains, going in a kayak down a rapid river, and so on.
The Gamification Model Increases Success Rates
Another benefit of virtual reality for physical therapy is the possibility of creating a gamified experience for the patient. Each set of exercises represents a level and they are notified when they completed it and are ready to move on to more difficult exercises—just like in a video game.
Therapists can adapt the training routine for each patient according to their progress, something that usually causes friction in traditional therapy sessions, when the patients complain that they are not ready for something more difficult.
Constant Supervision and Patient Accountability
Virtual reality therapy is convenient because patients can do their exercises in the comfort of their homes—but not away from their therapist’s supervision. The fact that they know the therapist has access to the analytical data of their progress makes patients more accountable and therefore more willing to stick to their physical therapy schedule.
At the same time, therapists can monitor patients in real time from a remote location and encourage them to continue with a new set of exercises or advise them to take a break.
Regular Appointments through the VR Headset
Patients can also receive their progress reports through the virtual reality therapy app. All they have to do is put on their headset and get access to the file prepared by the therapists with all the indications and findings.
This removes the need for many in-person appointments, allowing the therapists to focus on special, high-risk cases.
Access to Big Data for Clearer Understanding
Virtual reality therapy apps can collect patient data (according to federal HIPAA rules) and make it available to doctors and physical therapists. This will help the medical professionals understand the average recovery curve for specific ailments and for patients in a specific age group.
This, in turn, will help doctors and therapists develop better, more personalized exercises and help their patients recover faster. At the same time, physical therapists can get a better understanding of risks associated with a certain age or pre-existing conditions and make sure that each patient is given a list of exercises they can perform safely.
Virtual reality can only make physical therapy better, both for practitioners and for patients. Creating an immersive training landscape, under close observation by the therapist, can only stimulate patients to work harder and have confidence that they are safe and in good hands.