Few people, if any, are completely calm and relaxed before a visit to a doctor. We are very protective of our bodies and tend to get anxious and even scared before any medical examination, operation, or procedure.
Pre-procedural anxiety not only causes the patient’s discomfort and distress. It may result in various physiological reactions – sweating, nausea, increased blood pressure, tachycardia, etc. Sometimes, anxiety can even increase the pain that patients feel during medical manipulations.
All these factors combined mean that anxiety, on the one hand, worsens the patient’s experience and, on the other hand, makes the procedure longer, less effective, and, in some cases, even more expensive. This is especially pronounced in young patients who tend to be more scared of medical procedures than adults and, consequently, become rather uncooperative.
As a result, medical personnel need to find ways to overcome anxiety in patients to be able to carry out the necessary procedures. The most common ones are anesthesia and sedation. While being effective as pain-reducing methods, they have a number of disadvantages – longer recovery, required the presence of an anesthetist, risk of developing a dependency when administered repeatedly. In addition, the procedure cost becomes higher.
Distraction as an anxiety-reducing technique
The capacity of a human brain, however tremendous, is still finite. Strong emotion can distract a person from another, similarly strong one. For example, the relaxing effect of massage on women in labor has been known for a long time. Now, massage is being tested as a technique to reduce anxiety and anxiety-induced pain in burn victims.
However, today’s technology can offer solutions that are much more effective in the context of calming the patient and lowering their pre-procedural anxiety. At the same time, they are much safer for the patient and more cost-efficient.
We are talking about virtual reality – an immersive experience technology that is finding increasingly wider use in healthcare.
Virtual reality for anxiety reduction
As we said already, our brain is an extremely powerful and complex system, and to distract it fully, it takes something equally powerful and complex. In this respect, virtual reality is truly up to the task. It transports the user into a completely different world making them pay little attention to what is happening in the real one.
This ability of VR to create immersive experiences is recognized by modern healthcare which leverages its distraction power to make medical procedures less scary and painful for patients. There is statistical data showing that VR can reduce pain levels as much as 24%.
There are many situations where virtual reality can make medical procedures more bearable for patients and easier for doctors and nurses – IV insertions, blood tests, dressing changes, especially for burn victims. VR is especially efficient with children who are happy to plunge into a virtual world leaving pain and fear behind.
How to implement VR for pre-procedural anxiety reduction?
A virtual reality package usually consists of a VR headset and a specially designed application. Headsets are mostly of a wireless type which is the most convenient for use in hospitals.
While there are plenty of VR applications of all sorts on the market, most of them are not suitable for use as an anxiety-reducing tool. For a VR to have the maximum distracting and relaxing effect, it has to fit certain requirements.
- Control from any position without using hands. Often, patients undergo their procedures lying in bed. Some of them cannot move their heads or hands due to their condition. The VR app should be built taking into account all these restrictions and allow hands-free control.
- Non-violent story or theme. The main purpose of a VR app is to distract the patient, not to scare them and make them even more agitated. Therefore, the best themes for the VR app designed to reduce pre-procedural anxiety are nature, prayer, or happy engaging games.
- No levels in games. When a game consists of levels with ascending difficulty, the user’s failure means game interruption. For patients suffering pre-procedural anxiety, it is important to become fully immersed in the virtual world following an exciting storyline. Therefore, games, if used for healthcare VR, should be designed without distinct levels or other storyline interruptions.
VRwecare apps for anxiety reduction
We build virtual reality apps in strict accordance with the requirements of hospitals and other healthcare providers. We pay special attention to the quality of VR content not to cause any unpleasant effects in patients – dizziness, nausea, uneasiness.
Our virtual reality apps are highly localized focusing on the cultural and ethnic specifics of the particular target audience. VR products by VRwecare are always patient-centric, making sure they get the most positive experience.
If you would like to learn more about our healthcare VR solutions or request a demo, contact us – we’ll be ready to help.