Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust is trialing virtual reality (VR) technology, with a view to helping reduce anxiety during medical procedures for young people and children.
By introducing VR, the trust hopes it will play a role to help make injections ‘less scary’ for patients, and help to distract them through the immersive experience.
As one of the reasons for the trial, the trust cites a recent National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) paper, which suggests virtual reality has the potential to distract children from ‘self-reported pain and anxiety during medical procedures’. The NIHR study of 859 patients evaluated pain and anxiety levels whilst using virtual reality, and reported a ‘large effect compared with treatment as usual’.
Dr Ben O’Sullivan, Consultant Paediatric Anaesthetist, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS FT, said: “Being a gamer myself, I understand that virtual reality allows you to be cognitively wired into something else that creates an immersive distraction. We’ve found that the roller coaster games have been the most popular for our kids and the relaxing hypnotic backgrounds have worked really well for those with learning disabilities, to provide a sense of comfort in an unfamiliar environment.
“Being at hospital is already quite a scary time for children – so it’s really important for us to ensure that young people and children are respected, and a level of comfort is maintained throughout their time at our Children’s Hospital.”
As part of the trial, the trust is exploring the use of the tech to ‘reduce the amount of general anaesthesia that is administered’, hoping to then minimise the risk of side effects of the medication. The tech is also being used to help children to ‘stay still’ during medical procedures.
On VR related news, HTN recently reported on the use of the technology to provide a 360 degree virtual tour of a hospice to help families see what it’s like before attending. Similar tech is being used at Sheffield Children’s Hospital to support children explore everything – from the waiting area to the operating theatre – to help patients prepare and familiarise themselves for their visit.
VR technology is also being trialed with healthcare staff at Cambridge University HospitalsNHS FT. The trust has introduced ‘hologram patients’ as part of mixed reality clinical training, to provide an immersive 3D learning application to help students assess, diagnose, and treat conditions through holographic simulations, which are said to include ‘realistic medical responses’.