Article Text

Virtual reality in specialist palliative care: a feasibility study to enable clinical practice adoption
  1. Amara Callistus Nwosu1,2,
  2. Mark Mills2,
  3. Simon Roughneen3,
  4. Sarah Stanley2,
  5. Laura Chapman2 and
  6. Stephen R Mason4
  1. 1 International Observatory on End of Life Care, Lancaster University, Faculty of Health and Medicine, Lancaster, Lancashire, UK
  2. 2 Marie Curie Hospice Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  3. 3 Academic Palliative and End of Life Care Centre, Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool, UK
  4. 4 Palliative Care Unit, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Amara Callistus Nwosu, International Observatory on End of Life Care, Lancaster University Faculty of Health and Medicine, Lancaster LA1 4YG, Lancashire, UK; a.nwosu{at}


Background The use of virtual reality (VR) is increasing in palliative care. However, despite increasing interest in VR, there is little evidence of how this technology can be implemented into practice.

Aims This paper aims to: (1) explore the feasibility of implementing VR therapy, for patients and caregivers, in a hospital specialist inpatient palliative care unit and a hospice, and (2) to identify questions for organisations, to support VR adoption in palliative care.

Methods The Samsung Gear VR system was used in a hospital specialist palliative inpatient unit and a hospice. Patients and caregivers received VR distraction therapy and provided feedback of their experience. Staff completed a feedback questionnaire to explore their opinion of the usefulness of VR in palliative care. A public engagement event was conducted, to identify questions to support implementation of VR in palliative care settings.

Results Fifteen individuals (12 (80%) patients and 3 (20%) caregivers) participated. All had a positive experience. No adverse effects were reported. Ten items were identified for organisations to consider ahead of adoption of VR in palliative care. These were questions about: the purpose of VR; intended population; supporting evidence; session duration; equipment choice; infection control issues; content choice; setting of VR; person(s) responsible for delivery and the maintenance plan.

Conclusions It is feasible to use VR therapy in palliative care; however, further evidence about its efficacy and effectiveness is needed. Palliative care practitioners considering VR use should carefully consider several factors, to ensure that this technology can be used safely and effectively in clinical practice.

  • terminal care
  • supportive care
  • quality of life
  • symptoms and symptom management

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

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  • Twitter @amaranwosu

  • Contributors Study design—ACN, SR and MM. Data collection—MM and SR. Paper writing—ACN. Critique and review of the final manuscript—ACN, MM, SR, SS, LC and SRM.

  • Funding Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Global Digital Exemplar Programme, used to purchase equipment, £2968.6 (grant number–not applicable). Health and Life Sciences, Faculty Public Engagement Grants Scheme, Wellcome Trust, University of Liverpool, used to fund the patient engagement meeting, £360 (grant number–not applicable).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.