South Korea Is Bringing VR Into The Medical World


Virtual reality is taking off in the medical field, and South Korea is one of the best places to see it all happen. A number of establishments are either actively using VR in medicine, or planning to do so. This includes using the technology to train doctors and surgeons, to help treat patients suffering from mental disorders, give patients tours of hospitals before they go, and even to help children to cope with the stress of upcoming surgeries.

Gil Hospital of Gachon University, for example, is showing that it’s taking notice of the trend by creating a VR therapy center. The aim of this therapy center is to help treat mental disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, cognitive impairment, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, among others. Most of the center’s work will revolve around giving patients a safe, controlled environment where they can use VR to be exposed to stimuli that tend to set off their condition on a regular and repeated basis, building up a tolerance to known triggers over time. While this approach is essentially a psychological band-aid in most cases and may not treat the root cause of mental illnesses, it’s bound to help many patients, and readily shows the potential of VR in the healthcare space. The center is on target to open up in January of 2018.

Sejong Hospital partnered up with Samsung to give patients a glimpse inside the place before they go, as another example. Bundang Hospital of Seoul National University, meanwhile, created a surgery simulation app with a children’s character in it to help kids to gain confidence and eliminate stress before major surgeries. This approach, according to the hospital’s data, has reduced young patients’ surgery stress by around 40% since implementation. Gangnam Severance Hospital is also partnering up with Samsung, and is working on a full-service VR mental health suite. The goal of the project is to take patients from evaluation to treatment, with VR technology being leveraged to help assess patients in a more detailed manner, and utilize otherwise impossible treatment methods in a safe environment, not unlike the repeated exposure method used by Gil Hospital. Diagnosis and treatment decisions will also be helped along by AI technologies. This system is set to be used on a commercial basis during 2018.