How Virtual Reality Is Making Healthcare More Accessible

As more people move away from cities to live in more rural areas, driven away by the pandemic or looking to simplify their day-to-day routines, access to healthcare is becoming more challenging. Healthcare is an essential need, but a complicated factor for many people who live far from hospitals, medical experts, and other specialists. 

MedTech entrepreneur Erik Maltais took note of all of these competing factors and, driven by a desire to do good in the tech world, utilized Virtual Reality (VR) technology to make healthcare specialists accessible to all.

Virtual reality (VR) systems are currently understood as entertainment tools, used for watching movies, playing video games, and even to immerse oneself into the digital NFT market. But Maltais saw a bridge between VR and the medical world and applied his entrepreneurial spirit to make a way for it to transform the healthcare industry.

Within three years of their initial idea, the Maltais and his partner Jon Clagg built VR software that went beyond entertainment and offered something that could benefit society. With their newfound focus on the medical training market, Maltais and Clagg founded their award-winning company, Immertec.

Leading the Way in MedTech Innovation

Maltais is leading the way in an area of healthcare where experts see great potential. According to medical professionals at Cedars-Sinai, VR is a new frontier in medical innovation. It helps doctors learn necessary procedures more easily, provokes further empathy among healthcare providers that leads to greater progress in treatments, and helps by giving at-risk people a hands-on education about the disease.

Virtual reality gives people a hands-on experience of just about anything. When applying this technology to medicine, years of training are essential, for the safety of the practitioner and the patient. But once trained, the possibilities are endless. Maltais’ system provides another way for healthcare professionals to practice their skills, to have them ready in times of emergency.

Making Specialized Procedures More Accessible 

Immertec serves as a new way for surgeons and medical professionals to observe, communicate, and collaborate in real-time through virtual reality. Through Immertec's specialized technology known as Medoptic, cameras are placed throughout an operating room and regardless of location, doctors can throw on a VR headset and watch a surgical procedure take place; it also allows them to speak with one another and zoom in closer to the surgical site if they so choose.

Maltais began the company because of its potential for decentralizing specialization. Through VR, the most innovative procedures and techniques are made more accessible. In turn, more physicians can be exposed to surgical innovations and therefore provide greater access to those medical advancements, without geographical limitations.

Immertec's network lag time runs at less than 500 milliseconds, giving itself an advantage due to its high speed because the company's competitors use simulations for training instead. Everything happens in real-time, which is essential in this kind of work — a lag could cause a significant communication barrier in a high-stakes environment. 

In 2019, Immertec launched a pilot program with one of the world’s top 3 medical device companies that gave 3,000 doctors access to its technology. They’re well on their way to transforming the industry.  

People-Focused Tech Moves Forward

Maltais attributes his company’s success to the work ethic of the people behind the technology. They’re motivated by the staggering statistic that over 60% of Americans don’t have reasonable access to trauma level one and level two care. This is the driving force behind Immertech’s innovation because, at its core, the company exists to fulfill an essential need: a lack of specialized healthcare access.

Maltais believes that at the core of any technological advancement is a human need. People need to use the technology, it needs to meet a significant need in society, and people need to be able to support that technology for further growth and development.

Maltias’ creativity is showing people in the tech industry how programs and systems originally designed for entertainment or fun can be optimized as solutions for human-centered problems, even high-stakes ones like healthcare. Virtual reality began as a fun toy for gamers or tech junkies, but now innovators like Maltias are pushing it further into the medical sphere. 

Entrepreneurs can learn from this creativity when thinking about how their inventions can contribute to the greater good.

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