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From assisting in epidural-free childbirth, distract patients while they undergo medical procedures, or relieving chronic day-to-day pain, virtual medicine is the next frontier in medical technology.
Dr. Swamy Venuturupalli took the stage recently at Cedars-Sinai’s first annual Virtual Medicine conference to co-moderate a patient panel that regularly uses virtual reality to manage painful conditions. His co-moderator, Denise Silber, an innovative thought leader in the digital health field, is the founder and president of digital health communication company Basil Strategies and the Doctors 2.0 & You conference series.
Virtual Medicine, an innovative event hosted by Dr. Venuturupalli’s research partner, Dr. Brennan Spiegel, brought in healthcare experts on virtual, augmented and mixed reality from around the globe. A series of discussions about where these technologies may have a place in the field of medicine captivated hundreds of people who were either attending the conference in person or watching with virtual headsets at home. The top health-focused virtual, augmented and mixed reality companies, like AppliedVR set up tables where they demonstrated how their cutting-edge technologies were being used in patient care and healthcare professional training.
As the event’s only patient panel, Dr. Venuturupalli knew one of the patients personally: Amanda Greene, also known in the social media world as LA Lupus Lady. Green stressed the importance of including patients in discussions about the medical field’s path.
Greene discussed how she has struggled at times with medication, but using virtual reality as a pain management technique has enormously reduced her pain and discomfort. She is now almost completely free of pain medications.
“What I learned from Amanda Greene is that there is such a desire among patients to want to feel like part of the solution,” Dr. Venuturupalli said. “Amanda also advocates for the need of individualizing the offerings on a VR platform so that an individual patient might have content that they would like and enjoy.”
One of the other patient panelists, Harmon Clarke of Los Angeles, presented his experiences with VR which have helped him deal with chronic pain related to Crohn’s disease. Not only did he find that VR helped him deal with pain related to his chronic condition, he described his elation when researchers from Cedars-Sinai connected him with his grandmother through real-time virtual reality from the hospital room. Harmon was an articulate patient advocate for the need to create specific content that diverse groups of patients could tap into and connect with.
As the worlds first known person to use VR to help during childbirth, Erin Martucci also described her experience with virtual medicine. When she shared her desire to have as medication free a birth experience as possible with her obstetrician, she was offered the option of using VR instead of the standard medical procedure of an epidural which she had experienced with her prior pregnancy. Not only was the delivery non-painful, she described actually feeling more connected with her baby. This opens up a new potential use of this great technology.