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Virtual reality fosters positive injured worker outcomes: Experts

virtual reality

ORLANDO, Florida — The role of medicine in workers compensation is continually evolving, as newer technologies emerge and change the nature of care for injured workers, panelists said Tuesday at the National Council on Compensation Insurance’s Annual Insights Symposium.

During a session on the future of medicine, Dr. Gerry Stanley, senior vice president and chief medical officer of Harvard MedTech, spoke about technological advances in comp, including virtual and augmented reality platforms used to treat injured workers.

“Now, we can take care of patients in their homes or wherever they’re living,” Dr. Stanley said.

He said the use of virtual reality in treatment for comp patients became more popular as a result of the pandemic.

“As we move into the future, we’re going to take a lot of lessons from our past,” he said. “How can we support people in a more holistic manner so we can get those workers comp outcomes that we want?”  

Injured workers who feel isolated benefit from being placed into a virtual world that resembles the real world, thereby increasing their motivation to get healed and return to work, Dr. Stanley said.

Virtual reality enables injured workers to transcend the feeling of being a “widget on a board being moved around” in the comp system, he said.

Dr. Michael Choo, chief medical officer of Walnut Creek, California-based medical management service company Paradigm Corp., addressed the common fear of artificial intelligence replacing medical professionals.

“I do think that AI will play a role, but I don’t think there’s going to be any sort of replacement,” Dr. Choo said.

Kenji Saito, president of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, said a personal touch will always be needed in comp to foster healthy worker outcomes.