What’s happening in Healthcare VR? A Q&A with Justin Barad

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The movie, Ready Player One came out this month. Based on Ernest Cline’s novel of the same name, the movie focuses on a future in which virtual reality is reality.

Although we aren’t in a total virtual world yet, VR has shown, and continues to show that it has a place in medical technology. The healthcare VR market is expected to grow from USD 769.2 Million in 2017 to USD 4,997.9 Million by 2023, says a MarketsandMarkets

Leading medical technology companies like Edwards Lifesciences, J&J, and Medtronic are dedicating resources to R&D in virtual reality. Those uses are geared to surgical training, patient education, and rehabilitation. But it got us wondering how VR could be focused toward the consumer healthcare space.

Osso VR is an award-winning VR surgical simulation platform with advanced hand tracking. The technology is geared to help physicians practice orthopedic surgical procedures, on their own time, and in a safe manner. It is also really cool. Founder and CEO, Justin Barad is an expert in VR technology and has a good pulse on how VR is expanding in the healthcare sector. We asked him to make some predictions on how the space is evolving.

PCS: The increasing use of wearables, as well as Apple's plan to provide patient record access via smartphone, indicate that consumer healthcare is a skyrocketing sector. Does VR have a place among those technologies that will be adopted? 

JB: Absolutely. VR has a lot of health and wellness potential that is more consumer-facing.  Rehab, psychological applications, such as pain management and decreasing anxiety, home diagnostics and specific therapeutic applications of VR have tremendous potential to provide value to the every day consumer.

PCS: What are some ways VR is being used today in consumer health? 

JB: You are starting to see many VR meditation and mindfulness applications, which have received a lot of early traction. There are also some VR fitness applications that may provide a new and compelling way to exercise such as VirZoom.  

PCS: Can you predict some other ways VR might be used on the consumer health side?

JB: Wearables have been used for some interesting diagnostic applications such as Apple's work with detection of a-fib via the Apple Watch.  We may see new opportunities through VR such as diagnosing neurological disorders like concussions or various ophthalmologic conditions.

Some of today’s most effective digital health technologies are mainly social in nature like Omada Health. VR enables an unprecedented level of social interaction that may see even more effectiveness when it comes to affecting behavior change to improve wellness. 

PCS: Does Osso VR have any plans to expand its offerings to the consumer side? 

JB: We're definitely interested in this area.  We've had a lot of interest from consumers on accessing our clinically accurate surgical training experiences to better understand procedures they or their family members may be receiving.  Furthermore, we'd like to provide the opportunity for people all around the world to explore what a career in medicine is actually like. We can even provide relevant technical skills and knowledge to give people the tools to become a part of our healthcare workforce.

Fast Company recently reported that it could still take around eight years for VR to reach the mainstream “tipping point”. But it's easy to see that companies like Osso VR feel it’s important to stay ahead of the curve, and prove VR’s usefulness in the medical and healthcare fields.