Georgia Magazine - March 2020 - 33

PHIL JONES

Virtual reality and
virtual environments

As virtual reality (VR) headsets evolve by improving graphics and reducing dizziness, the technology is no longer solely
used for the gaming world. In health care settings nationwide,
senior care homes are using VR to help Alzheimer's patients
"visit" their favorite vacation spots, and pediatric surgeons
are using VR to distract and calm children before complicated
procedures.
This year, the expansion of VR will continue as headsets
become more affordable and the software becomes more
accessible.
At Valdosta State University's Virtual Reality Lab, nursing
students use headsets to practice their skills and identify hazardous medical materials. Criminal justice students experience
what life is like in prison and learn about the health issues that
inmates may face.
Criminal justice professor Bobbie Ticknor works with
inmates in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina to treat
their substance use issues as part of her research. She uses virtual reality to help them recognize their triggers, develop coping
strategies and complete mindfulness exercises.
"VR isn't here to replace clinicians or professors. It's a tool
that complements other therapies we're doing and has the potential to change people's lives on a scale that we haven't been
able to do previously," she says. "People in different locations,
for instance, can log on and get help, even if they don't have
transportation and can't make it to an in-person group meeting."

PAUL LEAVY

and across the country. Now major research institutions are
partnering to study this data and uncover what it means for
today's patients.
In 2020 and beyond, those developments should lead to
more personalized medicine. Although "precision medicine,"
which tailors treatment to a specific
patient, is still far off, medical associations are starting to better understand
how age, gender, race, ethnicity,
socioeconomic status, family history
and genetic risk may affect symptoms,
decisions and treatments.
By using advanced machines to
evaluate the data, "treatment options
could be customized and personalized to the needs and preferences of
patients, rather than relying on onesize-fits-all treatment strategies," says
Turgay Ayer, director of business intelligence and health care analytics for
the Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Telemedicine and
telehealth

Bobbie
Ticknor, left,
a criminal justice
professor at Valdosta
State University, teaches
student Ryan Johnson
how to use a virtual
reality headset in the
on-campus Virtual
Reality Lab.

As VR gains popularity in consumer
settings, telehealth opportunities are
becoming more widespread and accepted. Younger generations are more
comfortable with on-camera consultations with
their doctors, for example, and Medicare Advantage
is expanding its coverage of telehealth services that
can be reimbursed through insurance.
In Georgia and other states with large
rural areas, telehealth can reach those who are
underserved and often far from hospitals.
In 2018, Augusta University received a $368,000
grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to
create Georgia's first emergency telehealth network.
The university was already a major hub for the state's
telestroke program, which connects doctors when
there are stroke emergencies in rural areas of
the state.
Augusta University doctors now can provide
remote consultation for other hospitals' emergency
departments through video, high-quality ultrasound
and other diagnostic images. Now installed in
Sandersville and Washington, the program is slated
to reach Colquitt, Cordele and Swainsboro this year.
"We want to improve the care of individual
patients across the state and keep patients in the
communities where they are," says Dr. Richard
Schwartz, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at
Augusta University. "We see the network expanding
quickly, and it'll grow in ways we probably haven't
even thought of yet."
Carolyn Crist is a freelance writer who lives in
Athens.

www.georgiamagazine.org

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Georgia Magazine - March 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - March 2020

Contents
Georgia Magazine - March 2020 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - March 2020 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - March 2020 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - March 2020 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - March 2020 - 4
Georgia Magazine - March 2020 - 5
Georgia Magazine - March 2020 - 6
Georgia Magazine - March 2020 - 7
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Georgia Magazine - March 2020 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - March 2020 - Cover4
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