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Healthcare goes mobile: how consumer devices are changing the future of care

Digital health is the next frontier of healthcare. Across the entire care continuum, hospitals, clinics, and other institutions have recognized the transformational role technology can play in helping practitioners treat patients in more efficient, less expensive ways—all while producing better patient outcomes. As calls for value-based care grow louder, it’s incumbent on healthcare leaders to find and deploy the next generation of impactful healthcare technology.

Traditionally, these innovations have been products and services designed especially for medical environments. But while effective, these solutions are often applicable only in certain places, like operating theaters or ICUs. This leaves countless arenas in need of new technologies to help them run smarter, operate more efficiently, and better serve patients. That’s why, increasingly, providers are turning to digital consumer technologies that we already use every day.

Today, the most ubiquitous devices in our homes and offices are finding a new place in the healthcare arena. Virtual reality is providing new, cost-effective, non-addictive treatment options for patients with a wide range of conditions. Tablets and IoT-enabled sensors are making it possible for seniors and people with disabilities to live healthier, more independent lives. And smartphones and wearable devices are streamlining the entire continuum of care, by empowering all of us to take control of our own health and wellness.

Virtual reality

America’s opioid epidemic has reached dangerously high levels. The crisis has proven to be extraordinarily costly, both in lives and in dollars. An estimated 115 Americans die every day as a result of drug overdoses, and one study of a West Virginia hospital found that the hospital lost $3.5 million in a single year treating rising infection rates among patients taking opioids.

Policymakers and legislators will continue to debate legal and regulatory fixes to the problem, but in the meantime, healthcare institutions need to act. Here, consumer technology—specifically, virtual reality—can play a vital role, by giving practitioners and patients the non-addictive pain management tools they need, while potentially cutting costs at the same time.

VR holds particular promise for the noninvasive, non-addictive treatment of patients with chronic or acute pain, potentially offering an alternative to opiates and other traditional pain treatments. Clinical trials performed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA have shown that VR-based treatments are an effective tool for reducing pain. In a randomized controlled trial enrolling 120 patients, hospitalized patients experienced a 52% reduction in pain when receiving the VR treatment, with pain relief extending even after the headset was removed. Additional studies are underway to determine how VR solutions, when used in tandem with other digital tools including wearables and nerve stimulation devices, may reduce pain and lower costs for patients with orthopedic work-related injuries.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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