Let’s Get Real: Virtual Reality in Public Health Communication, Part 2

Cory Jurentkuff
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In Part 1 of this series, we discussed IQ Solutions, Inc.’s history of using innovative digital technologies to deliver impactful health messaging. We also told you about virtual reality (VR) as an emerging technology that we should be integrating into our public health communication strategies. We now outline some of the applications that we have identified for which VR can be applied to real world public health strategies.

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We are not alone in seeing the potential of VR to reach targeted populations. In 2016, social psychologists Hart Blanton and Christopher Burrows conducted a study of 395 college-age participants using VR games to communicate messages about drunk driving. The researchers found that the games greatly impacted the gamers’ opinions and, as a result, their behaviors.

“We think that by delivering messages when people are in a more susceptible state—when they are transported into the reality of a virtual game, where they can be more strongly influenced in a non-coercive way—we have great potential for effective communication,” the researchers said.

VR, Public Health, and Health Care

Health care professionals have already warmed up to the idea of using VR in clinical and surgical settings. The Virtual Reality Society has said that “the health care field is one of the biggest adopters of virtual reality, which encompasses surgery simulation, phobia treatment, robotic surgery, and skills training.” 

But VR’s potential to improve health doesn’t stop at the hospital’s doors. Here are some additional ways to use VR technology to communicate critical healthcare information to folks like you and me:

  • Health Education: Enter a VR environment that shows you (not tells you) exactly what can happen to your body if you smoke, abuse substances, or maintain a poor diet. With VR, we see potential for creating highly immersive games that do just that, taking you “inside” the human body to see clogged arteries or lungs damaged by cigarette smoke. We believe that this type of message delivery platform can encourage significant changes in behavioral choices.
  • Physical Activity: By now, “life coach” apps that monitor your diet or track your exercise routine are ubiquitous. VR can step ahead by bringing the physical activity into the experience, with a simulated workout. Or, according to CNET, you could virtually hike the Grand Canyon.
  • Health Skills Training: VR provides a unique opportunity to give folks hands-on training in life-saving skills—a virtual classroom! Virtual classrooms could include learning CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, or a whole host of health education, according to TechCrunch.
  • Facility Virtual Tours: Preparing for a hospital procedure? Or perhaps your child is nervous about going to a new doctor? Virtual tours powered by 360-degree video provide a window to explore surroundings before arriving, and hopefully offer some piece of mind.

At IQ Solutions, our experience has prepared us to creatively and effectively support our clients’ goals with this powerful new digital tool. Check back for our VR application case studies in the near future!

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