Radboudumc and partners Radboudumc and SyncVR Medical looking to boost the use of virtual reality in healthcare

15 July 2021

Aiming to provide better care with the help of virtual reality applications, Radboudumc is going to collaborate intensively with startup SyncVR Medical. To this end, the two partners signed a two-year collaboration agreement.

Added value

As per the agreements, SyncVR Medical will not only supply the necessary hardware and software, but the Utrecht-based company will be involved much more broadly in setting up and implementing new projects, including research. Examples include improving the logistics and organization of VR in healthcare, and embedding valuable VR data in the electronic patient record. The brand new partners also want to develop new applications for the first and second line networks in which the Radboudumc is active.  

At the same time, scientists will investigate whether the use of virtual reality (VR) has demonstrable added value for patients and healthcare professionals. If the supposed added value is proven without increasing healthcare costs, this may open the door to healthcare insurers. VR is not yet funded through conventional means, but usually depends on occasional subsidies or innovation budgets.

Apparent Reality

During a virtual reality session, a person is immersed in a different (false) reality via glasses connected to a computer. You can wander around in your mind in the three-dimensional world you see before you. The gaming industry has been profiting from this technology for years and VR is also becoming increasingly established in the world of education and training. Numerous applications have also been developed within the medical domain, but these are often local, isolated initiatives. Radboudumc and SyncVR were already working together on this basis, explains Prof. Dr. Harry van Goor, surgeon and involved in healthcare innovations at the Radboudumc for years. 'We recently completed three studies on VR. These were patients with lower back pain, patients with long COVID, and people who had undergone major surgery. The results show that many patients benefit from VR. It can reduce symptoms and bring health goals closer.'

Less stress and pain

VR can remedy or relieve both physical and mental complaints, van Goor explains: 'Games work particularly well with young people to get them moving. Some older people might prefer to take a virtual walk on the beach of Scheveningen or pick fruit as a physical exercise. As far as the mental part is concerned, the VR programs for healthcare are based on psychological techniques. For many people, this works extremely well. This not only offers these patients better prospects, but for healthcare professionals it is also better and more pleasant to work when the patient has less stress or pain.'

'A kind of Netflix'

Robbert Brouwer, one of the founders of SyncVR Medical, now operating in four European countries, says he is proud that 'the great innovative Radboudumc' has chosen his young company to jointly boost VR in healthcare. 'I am also thinking of new Radboud programs such as Fit4Surgery. VR offers all kinds of opportunities for patients to work on their fitness from home. There is an incredible number of possibilities.' At the Amalia Children's Hospital they also work with VR programs made by his company, says Brouwer: 'There it's mainly about pain and stress reduction. Thanks to the VR glasses and games or other programs from our app store, it is often possible to reduce fear of treatment.'

It has been agreed that SyncVR will build a VR app store especially for Radboudumc, from which healthcare providers and patients can make their choice. Brouwer: 'In that respect we are a kind of Netflix: there is a lot on offer, the user only has to choose.' With a few exceptions, SyncVR does not make the programs itself. The app store is filled with material for which the company holds the licenses.

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