Virtual and augmented reality are gaining wider acceptance in healthcare. While there are still challenges and deployment hurdles, more and more organizations are using AR and VR as the technologies evolve and the many benefits of tools that once may have sounded like sci-fi become apparent.
A few recent announcements show just how AR and VR are catching on across an array of different use cases.
Smileyscope VR cleared to treat pain
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted Class II clearance to Smileyscope, a digital therapeutic that uses positive virtual stimuli to reduce pain and anxiety during medical procedures, the company announced on Monday.
Previously, on September 25, FDA cleared the VR system for the drug-free, temporary relief of acute anxiety associated with needle procedures, Smileyscope said. The company holds a patent for Procedural Choreography, a proprietary technique that reframes real-world stimuli with positive virtual stimuli.
According to the company’s website, the device can be used for patients ages four and up.
“Needle procedures can be very stressful for children of all ages,” Dr. David Seo, senior vice president and chief information and digital officer for Nicklaus Children’s Health System, told South Florida Hospital News in July. He explained in the story that emergency department clinicians use Smileyscope for “artful distraction” and that families can request VR support to reduce children’s discomfort and anxiety.
“Our robust pipeline of drug-free pain and anxiety management treatments during common medical procedures spans children and adults,” Dr. Evelyn Chan, CEO and co-founder, said in the statement.
The use of VR goggles to provide children with high-tech diversion has been shown in previous studies to reduce fear and pain in children during vaccination. At Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California, neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Louis told Healthcare IT News in September that VR shows its worth across a number of specialties. Beyond use in training surgeons, VR helps adult patients feel better prepared for surgery, he said.
Enhancing senior-caregiver relationships
A study conducted by Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab in collaboration with Mynd Immersive and AT&T 5G Healthcare, found that the benefits of virtual reality are not just for the young.
Dr. Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the VHIL and researcher Ryan Christopher Moore said their study shows how VR has “transformative applications in healthcare, particularly geriatric care.”
The researchers used technology from Mynd Immersive, formerly MyndVR, to understand how older adults feel about virtual reality and how professional caregivers feel about facilitating those experiences. Their survey of 245 older adults and 39 caregivers in 16 senior care communities across 10 states is the largest ever conducted on VR and older adults, according to Tuesday’s announcement about the study’s findings.
“The response from both the caregivers and seniors has been quite positive, suggesting
that VR can be a sustainable and beneficial tool in Senior Care communities,” Bailenson said in the statement.
The study found:
- 81% of surveyed caregivers reported they enjoyed interacting with residents more using VR than other activities.
- 94.9% said that using VR was “moderately to extremely beneficial to their relationship” with the patient, while 89.5% of senior care residents reported the same in their relationships with the staff.
- 74.2% of the caregivers reported that the residents’ moods were improved while 77.9% of the residents reported feeling more positive
- 57.5% of older adults reported feeling less isolated from the outside world after using VR during the study.
HTC VIVE – a maker of 5G products including VR systems – Select Rehabilitation and senior living communities, like John Knox Village in Pompano Beach, Florida, also participated in the Mynd-sponsored research.
“This type of data from industry partners like Mynd and esteemed independent researchers, such as Stanford University, further supports our belief and moves the entire industry forward,” Cher Wang, chairwoman of HTC, added.
The journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking has reportedly accepted the research study and is expected to publish it before the end of the year.
VR training on Naloxone administration
In 2019 and 2020, University of Pennsylvania academic researchers found that VR training was just as effective in educating people on how to administer Naloxone and then worked with local governments to use it in their efforts to drive down opioid overdose statistics.
Also known as Narcan, Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that can reverse an opioid drug overdose by quickly restoring normal breathing. The researchers tested VR training against in-person Naloxone instruction at the Philadelphia Department of Health’s training clinics.
Then with grant funding from the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, the Camden County Board of Commissioners, Prosecutor’s Office and Addiction Awareness Task Force along with the UPenn’s Schools of Nursing and the Annenberg School of Communications created the nine-minute immersive video to train students, staff and school administrators, bus drivers and other entities that carry Naloxone.
They released the locally-tailored VR training video On October 27, according to an announcement from the prosecutor’s office.
“Narcan is a critical tool in our battle against the opioid and overdose epidemic,” Commissioner Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said in the statement.
“It is imperative that as many people as possible are trained in how to administer this life saving medication and this instructional video will help us do that,” he added.
Camden County is one of the hardest hit regions in the long-raging opioid epidemic.
“Rarely do we get to see such an immediate lifesaving benefit to our research,” said Sarah Banet-Weiser, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, in the statement.
“We are all so thrilled and proud that this innovative use of virtual reality can be used to efficiently and effectively train anyone to revive people who are overdosing.”
“What we think about here at Penn is not just what we can do in isolation but the impact we can have on our communities,” added Antonia Villarruel, dean of the School of Nursing.
Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.