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This week I took a look at the use of VR in the medical field.

Dascal, J., Reid, M., IsHak, W. W., Spiegel, B., Recacho, J., Rosen, B., & Danovitch, I. (2017). Virtual Reality and Medical Inpatients: A Systematic Review of Randomized, Controlled Trials. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 14(1–2), 14–21.

This systematic review discusses the findings of randomized control trials that used VR in outpatient settings.  Eleven studies met the inclusion criteria and were reviewed.  The studies reviewed were somewhat heterogeneous in setting, design, equipment used and area of focus.  However, there were commonalities in disease states treated.  For example, VR is used often to treat pain victims.  Overall, results were positive, with low side effects, significant results and positive patient perceptions.

This study was strong for several reasons.  It treated VR like a drug treatment and from this perspective adopted a clearly clinical tone. Since this was not educational research, focus on randomized control trials might be expected – with patient outcomes as the focus as opposed to learner outcomes.  Results are very clearly summarized in concise narrative and in charts.  This is possible because of the limited number of studies addressed.  Inclusion criteria are both a weak and a strong point.  The inclusion of only randomized control trials lends credibility but also limits the scope of the review.

This study is relevant to me because I work at a health professions university. While this is not educational research, we are experimenting with 3D and VR as an institution, but there are constant questions about the effectiveness of the tools overall.  While something like this article might not end the debate, it is certainly suggests VR effective in clinical environments and that the systems warrant further study.  Perhaps some of the uses of VR in medical schools might not be primary, but secondary – teaching students how to use VR to treat patients more effectively instead of using VR as an educational tool for the practitioner in all cases.