Susan E. Mazer, Ph.D. Blog

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Hi, and welcome to my blog! I'm Susan E. Mazer -- a knowledge expert and thought leader on how the environment of care impacts the patient experience. Topics I write about include safety, satisfaction, hospital noise, nursing, care at the bedside, and much more. Subscribe below to get email notices so you won't miss any great content.

Are You Ready to Improve the Patient Experience With Virtual Reality?

November 10, 2017

C.A.R.E. VR - Transforming the Patient ExperienceThe speed with which media technologies have changed in my lifetime is astounding.

My parents listened to the radio. When I was six years old, we got a television. After that came stereo sound. Then cassettes and CDs. Computers. DVDs.  The Internet.  Smart phones.

Now: Virtual Reality!

However, while the application of media technologies in healthcare has dramatically expanded beyond information and entertainment, the use of immersive experiences to improve the patient experience is just beginning to be explored.

What Is an Immersive Patient Experience?

Immersive experiences use the full range of our visual and auditory senses.  As the term implies, you are fully immersed in an alternative environment where you are able to turn around, look up and down, watch as if you are standing there, with a full 360-degree view of the world.

Virtual reality can take patients’ minds far away from the hospital room.

In his Theory of Restorative Environments, Roger Ulrich points to the experience of “being away,” allowing one to re-enter the present state anew, more alive.

The use of positive distractions to relieve anxiety, fear, and pain, dates back Ronald Melzak’s Gate Control Theory of pain in 1965.  Positive distractions — whether art, music, humor, or nature — are often used to help relieve the anxiety patients and families experience during a healthcare crisis.

VR Can Help Relieve Pain

Research to date has shown that immersive technologies, such as virtual reality, calm and distract patients, lessening the sensation of pain. VR seems to be effective in providing relief from pain regardless of what kind of pain it is.

In a pilot study conducted by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles in collaboration with Samsung, adult patients reported a 24 percent drop in pain scores after using VR goggles to watch calming content.  Other initial studies with pediatric patients found that playing immersive video games provided such a powerful distraction that their pain also dropped significantly.

The research team under the direction of Dr. Walter Meyer at Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston, Tex., believes that when children’s attention is drawn into a virtual and three-dimensional world, less attention is available to process incoming pain signals. As a result, children with severe burn injuries may experience up to 35-40 percent less pain and discomfort during daily baths and wound dressing changes.

A further benefit of using virtual reality is reducing anxiety levels that patients feel before and during wound care sessions. Virtual reality may also improve patient cooperation with the wound care nurse during wound debridement.

C.A.R.E. VR Reaches Further Into the Healing Experience

With more interest and research being done to minimize the use of opioids, the use of immersive technologies is a welcome innovation for caregivers and patients.

Therefore, it is a natural progression for The C.A.R.E. Channel to reach further into the healing experience with C.A.R.E. VR.  Using the same standards developed for The C.A.R.E. Channel, we’ve produced a 360-degree immersive experience that allows patients to engage and interact with the natural world.

Stunning natural landscapes are paired with a virtual soundscape that emerges from every direction because the audio is processed in a way that mimics how a person actually hears.  The video is shot from a single point of view, also replicating the position of a patient.

C.A.R.E. VR is interactive, with the patient in total control. Using eye-tracking technologies, patients can move within a given environment simply by focusing on a single point. You can find out more about how it works by visiting the C.A.R.E. VR page.

Several hospitals are serving as test sites for C.A.R.E. VR, and the product is being officially launched in Q1 of 2018.  Also in early 2018, two prestigious medical facilities are going to begin using C.A.R.E. VR in research studies focused on reducing pain and the use of opioids through the use of immersive technologies.

It’s hard to say what the next disruptive media technology will be. But for now, the use of VR in healthcare holds many exciting possibilities to improve and even completely transform the patient experience. And we’re just beginning to find out what they are.

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