If you’ve ever been hospitalized or visited someone in the hospital, then you know that patients can experience anxiety, uncertainty and boredom exacerbated by a radical change in living environment and loss of customary rights and privileges. Sitting in a hospital room for days or weeks, often in pain and distress, can be physically demanding, emotionally draining, and socially isolating. In many ways, the hospital room can be more like a jail cell than an uplifting healing environment. This is not done on purpose but it happens. We, at PaleBlue, have both seen and heard this and we know that the VR environment can help with these issues.
PaleBlue’s developers have been trying to address this problem by using virtual reality (VR). Recent advances in VR technology offer a compelling opportunity to address inpatient distress (sometimes referred to as stresses).
VR provides immersive, realistic, three-dimensional experiences that “transport” patients away from the white four walls of their hospital room and into a unique, positive, and emotionally safe environments. We believe that VR has potential to alleviate the stresses of hospitalization by providing patients an “escape” to enjoyable locations and realities.
We thought it would be useful to describe the “Top 5 Trends” for using VR with hospitalized patients. Virtual reality is just at its infancy stage and we’re only getting out of the early adopter phase.
- Patient education – From learning about diagnoses and medications to understanding tests and procedures, VR enables patients to learn about what is involved in the clinical trial and conveys it as an interactive experience which decreases distraction and offers visualisations that can promote better understanding about their conditions.
- Reduces Patient Stress – Virtual reality therapy has several advantages over recreating experiences in real life, including the ability to control the environment, to schedule treatment, to repeat scenarios and to adjust scenarios (maybe use settings instead of scenerios) to improve treatment. It may also provide insurance benefits as some insurance will not cover the extended time needed for physical exposure therapy in person. Actually, virtual reality therapy often requires much less time.
- VR can reduce pain without the need of narcotics or other medications – More than 10% of the world’s population suffer from chronic pain, with more and more people relying on painkillers to make their everyday lives less of a struggle. The healthcare community has found and proven that virtual therapy can help reduce pain. Medical VR (virtual reality therapy) has been proven to stop the brain from processing pain and reduce pain in hospitalized patients. This, in turns, shortens the length of the patient’s stay in the hospital, which, also lowers the costs of care. VR projects have been created to help distract the minds of chronic patients and focus more on VR worlds that help them alleviate pain and release stress. The VR software diminishes the threat response that causes pain and fix brain incongruities by providing motion and visual-based experiences. VR product teaches chronic pain sufferers how pain works at various levels of the brain, rehabilitates them, and eventually allows them to live a normal, less painful, life again.
- Even a negative response to VR can be clinically useful – Tracking patients reactions is the most direct and valuable way to support patients and collect data. From COPD to heart failure (as examples), each condition requires targeted monitoring for effective management which can be done through VR (when used). By tracking data and making adjustments as needed, patients may also accrue the non-face-to-face time necessary to submit for chronic care management reimbursement. On a larger scale, tracking patient data over time and using data to get patients to their goal through better management are the surest paths toward long-term care quality.
- Very mobile – not perfect but mobile – There’s no denying it: the world is getting smaller.The technology we use on a daily basis is getting smaller as it gets better. With the wearable revolution, the rise of the tablet and the increasing preference for phones over computers, our world is going micro.
- VR has potential to be cost-effective – Whether software or hardware, VR will become really mainstream and its products are easily affordable to the average Joe. In 2018, and beyond, VR products will become more available, and as a result there will be a gradual price adjustment that makes them more affordable to the masses.
- Doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff are absolutely intrigued by VR – One thing is for sure – using VR in the hospital turns a lot of heads. Wherever in the hospital with VR goggles, staff are intrigued by the concept of using VR for patient care. It’s hard to leave a unit without allowing curious doctors and nurses to try the headsets. The main limitation has been time and equipment availability. This bodes well for a successful future of VR in hospitals; clinicians understand the potential value of VR and are interested in trying it with their patients.
VR is the way of the future that is already here. VR allows the patient and providers to better understand the proposed treatment to be addressed and allow both parties to come to an agreeable solution.