How Virtual Reality is Helping Curb Patient Anxiety

Healthcare industry’s interest and investment in the technology to improve patient care is on the rise. Virtual Reality (VR) is one such technology, an ambitious pilot project is underway at MedStar SiTEL which uses HTC Vive VR headsets to bring clinicians together in lifelike, 3D simulations of a modern emergency room. After nearly a year of testing, the result has been called impressive.

VR is moving beyond bleeding edge and into the leading edge in healthcare. Still, inflated expectations abound for its use in the industry. It is important for VR providers to gain an accurate understanding of how VR is playing out in healthcare and align it with your concerns and goals.

By studying the impact of VR for reducing pain associated with drawing blood, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is doing just that. Nobody likes getting their blood drawn, and they are tackling this common problem head-on. Under the program, patients ranging from 10 to 21 years old were given either a standard topical anaesthetic cream or a VR headset with an immersive game. The equipment is co-developed by the hospital and applied VR that runs on a Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone. Patients playfully toss virtual objects at teddy bears in the game, who giggle and laugh as they try to avoid getting hit.

The phlebotomists prep arms, insert needles and draw blood while the patients play. Afterwards, patients, their parents and clinicians assess the experience. Overall, the VR group qualitatively reported less anxiety and pain.

Some people are concerned that a VR intervention will slow down care. However, the researchers at MedStar say that they are learning that hospitals can treat more patients because it takes less time for the phlebotomist to relax children for a procedure; they can just go about their business.

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