Background Several studies have confirmed positive outcomes using virtual reality (VR) for clinical conditions such as anxiety disorders, phobias, post-traumatic stress syndrome, eating disorders and pain management. VR has also been employed to promote emotional wellbeing and induce positive emotions for people in hospital. Research into the clinical applicability of VR in health care settings is still in its infancy. Until now, little research has focused on VR in a hospice setting with one other hospice in the UK that has started a small research pilot. The aim of this study is to explore the feasibility, acceptability and potential benefits of using VR for people with incurable long term conditions in a hospice setting.
Methods This was a prospective observation and interview study of hospice patients’ experiences of taking part in a 30 minute VR session where they were immersed in a virtual world.
Results Observational data of VR sessions with 20 patients showed that most people respond positively. Reactions were of joy, happiness and amazement or of feeling peaceful and calm. Some people voiced that they were able to forget symptoms. These participants valued being able to visit somewhere that they now never would while others were able to visit places, often from younger days, that they wished to see again, expressing that it allowed recourse to a happy time of life. Some participants’ responses were more muted. Those participants would have preferred to have further opportunity to think about where they would like to visit having experienced a session. Some people, however, declined to take part stating that they saw no need for it, or that they felt that it was new and not for them.
Conclusion Preliminary findings are encouraging with VR well received by staff and patients alike. VR may best be targeted to people who are most likely to benefit from the technology.
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