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 bio-psycho-social jail cell than an uplifting healing environment.
Our digital health research team at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has been trying to address this problem by using virtual reality (VR). Recent advances in VR technology offer a compelling opportunity to address inpatient distress. VR devices provide immersive, realistic, three-dimensional experiences that “transport” patients away from the four walls of their hospital room and into novel, positive, and emotionally enriching environments. We believe that VR has potential to alleviate negative aspects of hospitalization by providing multi-sensory information and allowing patients to “escape” to pleasant locations and realities.
Over the past year our team has studied over 150 diverse patients using a range of VR visualizations. We published our initial experiences in a peer-reviewed study and are now initiating the largest controlled trial to date of VR, testing its impact on pain management, narcotic usage, length of stay, and satisfaction with care among hospitalized patients.
By Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS | My Gi Health