If only there was an effective clinical treatment for pain and anxiety that is low cost, customizable and…FUN? There is now! Many are familiar with Virtual Reality (VR) and its applications in the gaming realm, yet most are unfamiliar with VR’s positive effects on patients. Now swimming with dolphins, flying in other galaxies, and traveling around the world can all take place in an often uncomfortable setting, a hospital.
With a VR headset and a smart phone, patients are able to escape the current physical state and escape to a world that is far different than a hospital bed. A study conducted at Cedars-Sinai showed a reduction in pain of 24% among hospitalized patients. Researchers studying acute pain have found that if you can get someone who is focusing on pain to instead focus on something more productive (an immersive experience that removes them from the outside world and has enough of a cognitive load that requires their attention) you can reduce the amount of pain they feel.
In addition to acute pain, people who experience chronic pain are found to experience improved outcomes by therapeutic VR. Effectively treating chronic pain requires patients to acquire coping skills and psychological education to regain control and improve the quality of their lives. By leveraging biofeedback and ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) education via VR — which are empirically supported methods of treatment, but often prohibitive to providers due to the cost of equipment and the need to have a specialized biofeedback practitioner — healthcare providers can increase the accessibility and decrease the cost of treatment. Not only are reduction of pain levels a clinical outcome, but the anxiety levels of various patient populations are being tracked in clinical studies across the country. Studies to prove the clinical efficacy of VR are being conducted in leading medical institutions such as Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Mayo Clinic, Weill Cornell, UPMC and George Washington University.
Immersive.health is a blog that educates readers about how VR technology is positively impacting patients and healthcare providers across the world. The Immersive.health blog is powered by appliedVR, the first VR platform designed for healthcare which is being used in more than 100 hospitals throughout the US. appliedVR’s vision is to drive positive behavior change to solve some of society’s most intractable problems by leveraging the unique attributes of immersive technology.
“We wanted a place to showcase the powerful stories of people using our technology. Just like .health domains, VR is non-traditional yet a future standard in health, and we believed curating these stories on a .health was only fitting.”
– Josh Sackman, co-founder of appliedVR.
As one of the leaders in this exploding space, appliedVR has conducted clinical research around both the usability and effectiveness of how VR helps patients all throughout their journey, in order to better design, and make validated therapeutic VR content more accessible at scale in healthcare settings. “Although we’re currently focused on VR, we think there is a much broader opportunity for immersive and experiential technology to play a role in healthcare in the form of therapeutic interventions, education, training, empathy-building, and so many other ways.” explains Sackman.
If you are interested in learning more about the best practices in therapeutic VR, you should attend the Virtual Medicine conference in Los Angeles on March 29, 2018. (Daniel Kraft, MD, a member of dotHealth’s Policy & Advisory Board, will be speaking at the conference.)