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Implementing Virtual Reality in New Zealand’s Healthcare Sector

With the most extensive vaccination programme in history currently being undertaken across the world, New Zealand is also aggressively pursuing its rollout. The country expects to immunize tens of millions of people by the spring at over 2,700 vaccination sites across the nation.

While many individuals are eager to get their vaccinations and prevent the deadly COVID-19 virus from spreading further, trypanophobia, or a fear of needles, is believed to be causing problems for a significant number of people across the country. Researchers from the University of Otago have collaborated with a tech firm to develop new software that uses virtual reality (VR) to distract patients who are frightened of needles so they can receive the injections they needed.

The programme had been tested out by patients in Christchurch when receiving influenza shots while wearing the VR headset. A patient claims that he could “barely tell” when the injection was taking place and that he would recommend the app to anyone who is afraid of needles. People with phobias or anxiety over things like flying, heights, spiders, and social situations could also benefit from it.

The new distraction software employs virtual reality technology to engage patients in a virtual environment that will keep them entertained while they are being injected. Patients have complete control over the relaxing environment they will be placed in. The options are all scenic spots, including beaches, mountains, rivers, lakes and waterfalls. During these simulations, patients can train their brains to overcome their fear of needles via a combination of experiential learning exercises, breathing techniques, and stress management strategies.

According to a health website, trypanophobia is the extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles. It was recognised as a specific phobia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in 1994. Trypanophobia tends to be more common in children and may lessen as people grow older and have more experience of medical procedures.

By introducing virtual reality (VR) into medical care, patients as young as four years old who are experiencing this problem may be able to forget about their fears, enabling medical staff to administer the necessary shot without difficulties. Psychologists are now using virtual reality to treat phobias that were previously difficult to treat with exposure therapy.

Research shows that humans have a limited capacity for attention. As a result, when children divert their attention to a different stimulus, such as a virtual reality game, the painful stimulus may appear to be less severe. Augmented reality (AR), a technology innovation used in hospitals in recent years, had also been clinically proven effective for pain management during burn dressing changes.

Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality’s most well-known “relative,” produces a 3D world that totally separates the viewer from reality. There are two respects in which AR is unique: users do not lose touch with reality and it puts information into eyesight as fast as possible. These distinctive features enable AR to become a driving force in the future of medicine.

Assuming that COVID-19 vaccinations might become a regular part of our society in the future, a VR treatment platform would be a useful tool for assisting patients in coping with the reality of having to receive injections. The idea finds support as the company had received inquiries from health clinics all around the world that were looking for an app they could offer to their patients to keep them distracted while receiving the injection.

New Zealand has been avidly deploying tech in the healthcare sector. OpenGov Asia reported on the access New Zealand’s smaller allied health firms have to a new reporting solution that can assist staff with managing their business at a fraction of the cost of those commonly seen in larger enterprises. The software is designed to provide daily revenue updates, as well as appointments, productivity, and retention within practices using a cloud-based practice management system.

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