Virtual reality treatments yet to reach full effectiveness, says study

Digital and virtual reality-based treatments for motor disabilities cannot be effective until the healthcare sector embraces them fully, a new report has revealed.

The finding forms part of a major new research project entitled Vision-based serious games and virtual reality systems for motor rehabilitation: A review geared toward a research methodology.

The study, published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics, looks at how games and virtual reality systems have been used in motor rehabilitation research.

Using data from more than 86 existing studies, the literature review found that the use of such technologies is increasing geographically. Studies in these fields, for example, are particularly prevalent in Korea and the USA.

The most widely used technologies include Microsoft’s Kinect tool – a device originally created for use with its Xbox video gaming console. Kinect technology, and others like it, encourages those with motor disabilities to exercise and utilise their muscles in a fun and rewarding way.

Currently, these treatments are most widely used among people who have experienced a stroke, have cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s disease.

However, worldwide adoption and interest in this area is lacking, leading to a general lack of understanding and standardization – generally resulting in slow and sluggish uptake.

Commenting on the finding, the study authors said: “Although the study’s aim and the intervention procedure were well described in most of the studies, some of the studies’ main findings were poorly described, while others failed to use standard and valid outcome measures.

“Additionally, as this field of research is relatively new, many studies had poorly reported recruitment … randomization procedures, and assignment concealment and blinding; especially given that it is very difficult to blind the patients in this kind of interventions.”

The researchers concluded that future studies should take a more standardized approach to clinical application to produce “useful, meaningful results”.

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