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Sunday April 20th 2014

Thrive Research uses virtual worlds to treat wide variety of medical conditions including diabetes

A patient with diabetes sat in his doctor’s office as she informed him that his blood glucose level was alarmingly high.

A recovering drug addict walked into a house party and was welcomed by a friendly young guy rolling a joint who invited him outside to smoke it.

A soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder suddenly finds himself back in Iraq, driving a Humvee along a deserted road on a mission when a roadside bomb went off.

All three of those scenes played out in a computerized, yet alarmingly realistic, virtual world presented here at the Healthcare Information and Managment Systems Society (HIMSS) conference during a session on how virtual reality can be used in a clinical setting.

Although virtual reality is fairly popular for treating PTSD and is gaining traction as a treatment for drug addiction, it hasn’t yet caught on for a wider array of conditions, said Ivana Steigman, MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer for Thrive Research, a California-based company that develops online programs aimed at improving behavioral health.

“We can enter a virtual reality that is a different world, be it a battlefield, be it a hospital room,” Steigman explained during a Wednesday morning session on virtual worlds and health.

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