Background Virtual reality (VR) technology as a therapeutic intervention has been gaining attention in healthcare settings in recent years. Studies suggest that using the technology can help alleviate symptoms such as pain and anxiety and induce positive emotions for people in hospital. Managing symptoms and promoting emotional and psychological well-being are core palliative care goals of relieving suffering of people with life-limiting illness. Accordingly, VR may be highly beneficial for use in hospice care yet remains underdeveloped in such settings. This qualitative study aimed to trial the technology and consider what benefits may emerge for hospice in patients.
Methods A one-off VR session was offered to patients at a hospice in Scotland. Sessions were observed by a researcher and followed by qualitative semi-structured interviews to discuss the experience with those who took part. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed.
Results Nineteen hospice patients successfully tried an immersive VR experience. VR sessions were acceptable for people within the hospice environment. The majority of participants enjoyed the experience. Many expressed joy and delight at the process. VR holds possibilities for relieving symptoms such as pain and anxiety frequently experienced by people in hospices. Furthermore, the technology offers the capacity to reconnect with a previous sense of self and to allow respite through the capacity to transcend current reality and connect with another meaningful reality. This exploratory study offers a starting point for larger studies to investigate the utility of VR for hospice patients.
- hospice care
- supportive care
- quality of life
- spiritual care
- psychological care
- terminal care
Data availability statement
Data are available upon reasonable request. The authors have full control of all primary data and are agreeable for this to be reviewed by the journal if requested.
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Contributors EH conceived the study which was subsequently designed by EH and AL. Data were collected by AL. AL carried out the analysis which was then discussed and refined by EH. AL and EH prepared the manuscript. Both authors reviewed and gave approval for publication.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests This project was carried out by St Columba’s Hospice Care and was supported by Queen Margaret University. St Columba’s Hospice Care funded the social enterprise firm, Viarama, to carry out the virtual reality sessions but had no further financial arrangement or involvement or incentive with Viarama. No additional funding was sourced, therefore the authors had no financial relationship with the funders.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.