Home » OPINIONS » What If Your Doctor Prescribed You a Game Instead of Medicine?
3d image of a brain connected to a video game controller

Only 50 years ago, having a simple CRT television was a huge thing to have in a home. Those who had two were rich! Well, apparently, times are changing so fast we can’t even keep up with what’s new anymore. Some things that seemed completely against common sense only a decade ago, are slowly creeping into our reality. Even knowing this, it’s still a surprise to know we’ll probably soon see doctors prescribing video games!

Virtual Reality Therapy

VR technology is something still in development. However, it is, even now, a hugely powerful tool not only for entertainment but for many other branches of life as well. When it is perfected, we will probably see it have many uses in education, construction work, policing, you name it. This includes medicine.

What is VR therapy?

Virtual Reality therapy also known as simulation for therapy (SFT), virtual reality immersion therapy (VRIT), computerized CBT (CCBT), and virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET), is the use of vr technology for occupational or psychological therapy. Patients that receive virtual reality therapy navigate their way through digitally created environments, completing specially designed tasks along the way that are often tailored to treat a specific ailment.

The use of VR therapy

One of the many ideas for the use of VR therapy or Virtual Reality therapy is psychological therapy. Currently, there is a debate on the effectiveness of brain training. Some scientists argue that it doesn’t work – which is debunked by this group of researchers.

Basically, the main reason for people denying the effectiveness of video games is a wrong understanding of the term “brain training” in general. It is not a black-and-white and one-size-fits-all thing. Just like one of the researchers said: “You would never study one pill and then say “pills” don’t work, or do work.”


Project: EVO – The first prescription video game

A company called Akili has some rather interesting goals in this matter.  Akili is a Boston-based tech company and using Neuroscape‘s core technology, they are developing a mobile game called Project: EVO.

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Their main goal is to develop Project: EVO to that stadium that it becomes effective in helping kids with PTSD. Basically, this makes this a prescription video game.

However, this technology, just like anything that should be used in medicine, has to go through all of the trials and processes that are required by the FDA. It is not finished yet, and currently, it is in Phase III of Clinical Trials.

However, if they do succeed, that will make Project EVO a first prescription-based video game in the US. This means that a completely new branch emerges called Digital medicine.

The team at Neuroscape, whose technology Akili uses, has spent the past 12 years testing video game technology that could be used for the treatment of brain disorders such as ADHD, autism, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and more. Remember what I said about doctors prescribing video games?

Can VR technology help doctors make surgeries easier?

Now, let’s talk about something different. VR technology doesn’t have to be limited to helping patients only. The technology can also help doctors do their work as well. Dr. Nadeem Parkar (M.D., Saint Louis University (SLU) radiologist and assistant professor of radiology), and Kyle Collins (assistant vice president of ITS Enterprise Resources at SLU) have some neat ideas.

Namely, Nadeem Parkar wants to make visualization of organs and human bodies easier through VR. He started with 3D printing organs two years ago, and a gamer friend of his suggested he moves to VR.

This is what Parkar said about this: “As a radiologist, I am trained to see things in two dimensions. My brain is trained to see things in two dimensions. I take two-dimensional MRIs and CT scans and describe what I see. I then put it in a report for surgeons and others doing procedures on patients. But surgeons then have to convert that into three dimensions in their brains when they operate on patients.”

His ideas could greatly reduce the errors surgeons can make, too. Although doctors are usually excellent at what they do, having technology that makes it easier will help reduce the error rate. Parkar continued: “I thought if we can figure a way to convert those images, especially in very complicated cases, it could help. But 3D printing takes time. I had to find out something that was quicker. When my friend asked what was next, I thought, ‘I have to do something in virtual or augmented reality.’ But I needed engineering help. So I went to the IT people at SLU.”

This is the point where Kyle Collins comes in to help. He said: “The next step was to look and see if anyone was doing this already, so we could leverage an existing technology. We weren’t able to find any companies that were doing this in the medical space.”

The world is heading in an amazing direction. We have come to a point where something originally designed for gaming can help save lives. I mean, can a pinball table or a Tetris help doctors save someone’s life? I guess they were some kind of therapy too, yeah – but nowhere near powerful enough to make surgeries easier. 

Where do you think technology is heading? What unexpected uses can you see in items currently produced for gaming? Whatever you say, you can be right. The idea of doctors prescribing video games is becoming legit. So, sit tight, do your favorite past-time and fear not – you will be healed by games!

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