Surgery without virtual reality, soon to be a thing of the past?

When I was preparing for my refractive eye surgery a few years back, I did what any person with internet access does – I researched the procedure to death. I spent hours reading blog posts featuring rave to weary reviews. I searched and searched for the right doctor. I serendipitously came across the pros and cons of using a Groupon with my doctor (note: neither Staples nor I endorse or dismiss the use of Groupons). And most importantly, I watched videos on the procedure.
I won’t go into the details of those videos, but I will tell you that when I mentioned them to my doctor and the nurses, the entire room went silent and necks snapped to look at me in horror. And then I made a reference to a lawn mower with a smile on my face and they all uncomfortably laughed. Followed by all of them telling me to stop watching the videos.

Why wouldn’t someone research their surgery?

Here’s the thing though, we’re talking about my vision. Something I have had since I was a baby. It may have needed correction for the majority of my life, but it was there. Doing any kind of surgery on this vital-to-me function, especially a surgery that is optional, is terrifying. The risk of losing my vision is immediately greater than the reward of never enduring contacts or glasses again.
Luckily I tend to overlook alarming news easily. So despite the lawn mower, I proceeded with the process, somewhat blind to what would happen. After I was finished, I was visibly uncomfortable and slightly more awkward than normal for about 2 hours. Then I was bored out of my mind because I couldn’t read for another couple hours. Finally I was proud as pie lying in bed with giant plastic shields taped down to my head. All in all, it was one of the easiest surgeries of my life and to this day I have never been happier to have done it.

How virtual reality could have saved me in researching eye surgery

But despite the ease of the actual surgery, the preparation could have gone a little smoother. And if I were to get the surgery today, the technology would be there to make that happen. In an ideal world, doctors would have a virtual reality device ready for soon-to-be patients to watch and experience the procedure first hand. And rather than seeing a 20 year old process that involves a lot of screaming (from the viewer), it would have been a pleasant 1-2 minutes watching someone with a friendly voice, and a body like a paperclip perhaps, walk me through what I would experience. Had this been my experience, I probably would have signed the paperwork immediately and been more than eager to get my appointment started.
This doesn’t mean people won’t do their own research. And they may still watch a horrible video that shows an outdated process. But you can help improve their knowledge of the current experience with something hands-on and immersive such as VR. Even better, have VR headsets you give your patients with an online viewing experience they can use to their heart’s content. Then they have a gift they can keep using for other experiences with your branding forever imprinted on the piece.

There are so many other procedures that virtual reality would have been a complete game changer:

  • C-section surgery
  • Re-breaking and resetting of bones
  • Wisdom teeth removal
  • Braces installation
  • Compacted ear wax removal (I’ve never had this, but boy are these videos fun!)

And many more. Talk to a Staples representative, or visit to generate more ideas for your next healthcare initiative.