EAMC gets VR therapy

Published 10:00 am Friday, January 5, 2024

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According to a press release from East Alabama Medical Center (EAMC), they are the first hospitals in Alabama and Georgia to use the KindVR (Virtual Reality) headsets on pediatric patients.

According to John Atkinson, the P.R. and Marketing director for EAMC, the hospital received one KindVR system as a part of a two-year grant, having originally applied for three. The EAMC Medical Center in Opelika is the only location that has the headset currently. EAMC-Lanier did not receive the headset because there is no pediatric unit, where the headset is often used, at the Valley location.

The headsets are typically handled by Child Life Specialists, which are healthcare professionals that help children and their families navigate through the medical process. This includes helping to address and alleviate anxiety when possible. 

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KindVR is the company that creates the headsets as a therapeutic tool for children who come through the hospital’s doors. The sets come with 360-degree viewing, audio, and a remote to play KindVR games. Research and clinical studies have shown that Virtual Reality can be used to reduce stress and pain in patients.

In the statement, Madison Ard, EAMC child life specialist said the response from children and their families has been positive, with some reporting a decrease in their overall pain levels since starting the VR therapy.

The children can play games and listen to music through the headset. While these interactive activities provide entertainment, they also produce significant benefits to both patients and clinicians.

Some of the games are used as a meditation or stress relief to distract patients from procedures like needle sticks, laceration repair, and pre-operative stress. There is an “MRI Virtual Practice” on the system that guides the patient through the process of getting an MRI done, as a way to relieve the anticipatory anxiety.

Others encourage certain movements through the game to encourage a body position or posture that makes it easier for clinicians to do their job. KindVR lists “Look Up” as a potential game through the system that allows the child’s torso to be still for mediport access. The child life specialist can keep track of the game or activity in real-time, so they can talk about what the child is experiencing during use. 

KindVR’s website states that its system has 10 clinical trials underway with research hospitals in the country, and over 70 hospitals routinely use KindVR therapy.

The headsets do not have a Wi-Fi connection or any access to patient data, to ensure HIPPA compliance. The users wear disposable face pads and the sets are cleaned between uses. So far, the headsets have been used in the pediatric unit and on children in the hospital’s Emergency Room.