Virtual Reality Provides Non-Pharmaceutical Approach to Assist Pediatric Burn Patients
Candace Stuart – Director, Communications & Public Relations
The pharmaceutical industry introduced opioids to the medical community as a way for physicians to manage their patients’ pain. Simon Lin, chief research information officer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, offers pediatric burn victims another way to cope with the pain and anxiety that occurs when their dressings are changed. And the approach uses no potent and potentially addictive drugs.
The informatics team in collaboration with the Center for Pediatric Trauma Research and the Pediatric Burn Unit at Nationwide Children’s developed and pilot tested a virtual reality app that engages young patients in a game while clinicians remove and replace dressings. Lin will discuss their digital innovation and the results from noon to 1 p.m. ET Oct. 17 in a webinar presented through CHIME and the CHIME Opioid Task Force. The webinar is free and open to the public.
“Kids love games,” Lin said. “They are absorbed in games, whether on a phone or console, and especially by virtual reality because it is an immersed environment. The kids are distracted from their current environment into a virtual one. This is extremely effective for kids (experiencing) pain and anxiety.”
To play the game, children wear headsets that allow them to be immersed in the game. Because patients with wounds on their hands would not be able to use a hand console, Lin’s team designed breathing controls that allowed them to participate in the game. The headset also shields their view of the clinical activities going on around them.
“For burn patients, major distress is during dressing changes. It is an extremely painful process. The patient has already been in a miserable state for quite a while but whenever it is time for the dressing change, the patient not only experiences pain but they also observe; it is traumatic just to watch it. Virtual reality is one way we can shield the patient from this traumatic experience.”
Clinicians at Nationwide Children’s had approached Lin’s group of 75 heath IT specialists with the idea, which developed into a research and development project that they pilot tested on 59 pediatric burn patients aged 7 to 17.
Lin’s team now is conducting a larger study to further evaluate the use of virtual reality as a non-pharmaceutical analgesic for burn patients. They are recruiting 90 pediatric patients who will be stratified into three groups: 30 who will actively participate in the game using the breathing controls, 30 who will passively experience the game and 30 who will receive standard care as a control. Preliminary results are encouraging: 96 percent of patients reported satisfaction with the game; 100 percent of parents were satisfied; and 83 percent of physicians reported that virtual reality is helpful. Reported pain scores dropped by 50 percent compared to the control.
“That is a dramatic reduction of the pain score,” he observed.
They have not altered pain medication in study participants. “We already use a very cautious protocol,” Lin said. “We do not overprescribe opioids.” But the long-term goal is to be able to reduce or eliminate the use of opioids in this patient population through innovation.
This is the third free and open webinar being presented by CHIME under the auspices of the CHIME Opioid Task Force. The task force was launched in early 2018 to leverage the healthcare IT knowledge and expertise of CHIME’s more than 2,800 CIOs and healthcare IT executives to address the opioid crisis. To register for the webinar, go to here. More information about the CHIME Opioid Task Force is available here.