As information technology has advanced and costs have declined over the past decade, there has been a steady growth in the use of virtual reality (VR) in health care. According to the data of the two leading clinical databases--MEDLINE and PSYCINFO--the research in the virtual reality field is moving fast: under the "virtual reality" keyword, there are 739 papers listed in MEDLINE and 569 in PSYCINFO (accessed 6 December 2001). Much of this growth, however, has been in the form of feasibility studies and pilot trials. In fact, many researchers tried to use VR, but only a few were able to deepen their study. According to MEDLINE, only 16 research groups published more than three papers related to health care applications of VR. This number lowers to 12 for papers included in PSYCLIT. Therefore, apart from surgical training and some behavioral treatments, there is little convincing evidence coming from controlled studies of the clinical and economical advantages of this approach. This paper discusses recent evidence and outlines some guidelines for future research in this area.
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