The Uses of Virtual Reality in Healthcare

October 21, 2020 | Emoke

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A few years back, I attended a library training program and one of the presenters mentioned the idea of using virtual reality (VR) for surgery simulation. This idea has never left me.

Doctors can use VR (essentially video game technology) to simulate real-life surgery. They can use this tool to see, learn, and train themselves in more collaborative ways than ever before.


VR is also being used to help patients prepare for a medical procedure. By using a headset, a patient can watch through immersive and computer-generated imagery (CGI) what will happen during their medical procedure.

This provides important knowledge, lessens anxiety and helps patients feel more in charge of what they are agreeing to. 

Let's delve a bit deeper into an example of how doctors are using virtual reality and then look at how patients use it.


Doctors Using VR

Practicing pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Justin Barad and a team of software developers and medical experts founded Osso VR in 2016. Its success was great as one of Time's best inventions of 2019.

This virtual reality-based surgery training program is now used to train over 1000 surgeons a month worldwide.

Surgeons are using virtual versions of tools they have in operating rooms. This allows them to practice without the fear of error. It has a multiplayer component that allows them to work together in virtual reality.

For now, this technology is mainly used for orthopedic procedures. But the team is looking to expand to heart, vascular, urology, and surgeries conducted with robots.

Medical students are already using Google and YouTube videos to help learn and train, and even assist practicing surgeons during surgeries with research assistance.

Osso VR allows surgeons to practice skills by operating on virtual patients. It is also more portable and affordable than traditional training methods such as simulation centres. 

The future will look to gloves and hand tracking developments, rather than just controllers. Because, of course, surgery requires fine motor skills and incredible accuracy.

The developer of Osso VR (Barad) grew up on video games. With the advancements and possibilities in virtual reality, he also gets to make a positive impact on the world.


Patients Using VR

SickKids' Hospital Anesthesiologist Dr. Clyde Matava and Dr. Fahad Alam, Anesthesiologist at Sunnybrook Hospital, are using immersive reality in the Collaborative Human immersive and Interactive Lab (CHISIL). You can read more about it in this Toronto Star article.

Costs are kept down by using Google Cardboard, mounted onto a smartphone. The doctors found that there was no motion sickness amongst the kids and fear prior to surgery for patients decreased. The kids also preferred VR to traditional PowerPoint slides to explain their surgery process.

Patients of the two doctors are able to choose between multiple immersive experiences. These experiences are accessible at home with their own Google Cardboard headset, which they get to keep after.

These VR videos will allow pre-op patients and their families learn about the navigation in Sunnybrook, see what it's like to get a nerve block for pain management, get an epidural, or even where to park.


Learn about Virtual Reality at the Library

Are you interested in learning more about VR? Here are some resources to get you started.

Courses from

Online tutorials that you can take at your own pace. Create an account to track your progress. To follow the links below to these courses, you may be asked to sign in with your library card. Course descriptions are all from


O’Reilley for Public Libraries (Formerly Safari Tech & Business Books Online)

Along with streaming ebooks, O’Reilley for Public Libraries offers a variety of online video courses. Learn more about O’Reilley for Public Libraries. To follow the links below to these courses, you may be asked to sign in with your library card. Descriptions are taken from O'Reilley.

  • Virtual Reality: Concepts and Technologies. A manual for both designers and users, comprehensively presenting the current state of experts' knowledge on virtual reality (VR) in computer science, mechanics, optics, acoustics, physiology, psychology, ergonomics, ethics and related area.
  • Virtual Reality: The Essentials. Get started on your VR journey with this detailed overview of the hardware, development processes, and toolsets used to deliver VR experiences for desktop, mobile, and web systems. Taught by the VR industry veteran Tony Parisi, this course will swing open the 3D doors of wonder to any expert developer, entry level developer, or technically savvy artist eager to enter.
  • Virtual Reality with Unity 2019. In this course, you will learn about the specifics of Virtual Reality development in Unity... By the end of this course, you will have learned how to create a VR game using Unity 3D and implement some of the most common and useful interactions and game mechanics. You will also know how to think in VR and create a comfortable and effective user experience.
  • Virtual Reality Blueprints. If you are a game developer and a VR enthusiast now looking to get stuck into the VR app development process by creating VR apps for different platforms, then this is the book for you. Familiarity with the Unity game engine and the C# language is key to getting the most from this book.

Virtual reality blueprints : create compelling VR experiences for mobile and desktop


Other Book and eBook Recommendations

Virtual & Augmented Reality for Dummies

Virtual & Augmented Reality for Dummies by Paul Mealy

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality by Samuel Greengard

The Engineering Book

The Engineering Book by Marshall Brain


VRx: How Virtual Therapeutics will Revolutionize Medicine by Brennan Spiegel