Access Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics has been using VR to help patients avoid using anxiety medications before surgeries and in-office procedures. It has provided a different, non-pharmacological option for teenagers who would normally have to be prescribed medications for their anxiety.
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Waiting for a medical procedure, even a minor one, can be nerve-wracking. Research has shown that virtual reality (VR) can help educate patients on medical issues, and can also help ease anxiety symptoms. Access Sports are utilising this technology to help its patients stay relaxed without using anti-anxiety medications.
Access is trialling the use of VR headsets to ease anxiety in patients who are awaiting medical procedures. Patients will be offered the option of donning a VR headset while waiting for a procedure to begin, or while in post-operative recovery. The option does not cost extra and is available to surgical patients or those undergoing simple office procedures.
The VR equipment has been specially designed for clinical settings, and allows patients to be virtually transported to a variety of locations and experiences, with patients able to choose from options such as games, travel, sports, music or nature. According to research conducted by AppliedVR, pre-clinical results showed a 63% reduction in anxiety for patients using the VR technology, as well as a 24% decrease in pain.
A video demonstration provided by Access shows how a six-year-old boy was able to benefit from the VR anti-anxiety option. Children stand to benefit significantly from this option being available, and children are often likely to be anxious or upset about medical procedures, as it is often more difficult for them to understand the often complicated medical terminology. In addition doctors are often understandably reluctant to prescribe anxiety medication to people under 16, so the VR alternative will likely be welcomed by many parents and young people.
Other medical facilities have also been experimenting with using VR for patient applications. A care centre in Australia has been using VR to help elderly people escape the clinical environment, while a children’s hospital has been using VR as an education tool to help patients and relatives understand the often complex medical conditions being treated. There is also ongoing programs involved in using VR to treat addictions and reduce pain.