“Mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” That is a gross oversimplification of a new approach to patient pain management: hypnosis. Medical hypnosis has long been used as a tool to help patients with pain, stress, and anxiety. There is growing interest in using the techniques as anesthesia for surgical procedures; about 5 billion people worldwide do not have access to surgical and anesthesia services. And given the global problems with opioid abuse and addiction, the medical community is interested in non-chemical solutions to pain management.

The French company HypnoVR has developed a system designed to help healthcare professionals use medical hypnosis with their patients. Using off-the-shelf virtual reality (VR) hardware — Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear — the system immerses patients in “an intense multisensory tridimensional immersion experience.” The company reports that 90% of patients responded positively during clinical trials. The system is on track to obtain CE approval as a class 1 medical device, and the company expects to start shipping product in September 2018. The hypno-sedation solution can also be applied to pre- and post-operative rehabilitation.

The relatively low-cost system presumably requires much less training than unaided medical hypnosis, which could make this technology available quickly to a broad range of settings that might not be able to afford traditional anesthesiology solutions. The result could be millions of lives saved each year.