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P-34 Unlocking the potential of virtual reality in palliative care
  1. Letizia Perna-Forrest
  1. Royal Trinity Hospice, London UK


Background Researchers have long been interested in the physiological and psychological aspects of wellbeing. Various studies have found that Virtual Reality (VR) therapy, using computer generated environments and avatars, can have a positive effect in relieving pain in paediatric intravenous cannulation (Gold et al., 2006) and burn wound debridement (Hoffman et al., 2000), as well as in alleviating symptoms of depression (Falconer et al., 2016), anxiety (Repetto & Riva, 2011), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Rothbaum et al., 2001). To date, there is little published research about the physical and psychological impact of VR Therapy using real life environments/settings and the potential for VR to be used effectively in palliative care has not been fully investigated.

Aim Existing research on the use of still images shown to healthy subjects has concluded that personally emotive images trigger stronger positive physiological and psychological responses (Fedorovskaya et al., 2001). Our study’s principal hypothesis is: ‘Personalised virtual reality therapy has a positive impact on adult palliative care patients’ self-reported symptoms of physical and psychological well-being and pain scores thus resulting in an increase in overall quality of life/wellbeing.’

Methods Participants on our study will be given a VR Therapy experience lasting approximately four minutes, once a week, for four weeks. We will be obtaining quantitative data through the comparative analysis of pre- and post-session Edmonton Symptom Assessment System: Revised (ESAS-R) scores and qualitative data through set interviews that will be completed with each participant after each VR Therapy session and at the end of the project.

Results/Conclusion Positive results from this study could provide the evidence required for VR Therapy to be adopted and to be used alongside current symptom control measures provided by hospices and palliative care teams to manage symptoms at the end of life. It is our hope that this study will also give us a better understanding how VR Therapy can be used responsibly and ethically for patients across hospices and other palliative care settings.

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