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Preston AM, Brown L, Padala KP, Padala PR. Veterans Affairs Health Care Provider Perceptions of Virtual Reality: Brief Exploratory Survey. Interactive journal of medical research. 2022 Sep 2; 11(2):e38490.
BACKGROUND: Virtual reality (VR), a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world, has become increasingly useful within the psychiatric and medical fields. This VR technology has been applied in medical school trainings, exposure therapy for individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and reminiscence therapy associated with mood disorders for older adults. Perceptions of VR through the lens of the health care provider require further exploration. VR has grown in popularity; however, this modality continues to be underused in most Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals. OBJECTIVE: A web-based survey was used to explore health care provider perceptions of immersive VR availability and use for older adults and identify potential barriers for immersive VR use in older adults with cognitive impairment. METHODS: An 8-item web-based survey was developed to obtain health care provider feedback. This survey was disseminated throughout a single Veterans Integrated Services Network (VISN). The VR survey was developed via the Survey Monkey platform and distributed through the secure VA email network. Providers were asked to voluntarily participate in the brief, anonymous survey and offer their perceptions of immersive VR use within their patient population. Survey data were reviewed and interpreted using descriptive statistics. RESULTS: A total of 49 respondents completed the survey over a 15-day period. Of them, 36 respondents (73%) had heard of a VR device, though the majority (n = 44, 90%) had never used or prescribed a VR device. Respondents identified several potential barriers to immersive VR use in older adults with cognitive impairment (eg, hearing difficulties, perceptions of technology, cognitive concerns, access to resources, and visual impairment). Despite the barriers identified, providers (n = 48, 98%) still reported that they would feel comfortable prescribing immersive VR as an intervention for their patient population. CONCLUSIONS: Survey findings revealed that health care providers within this VISN for VAs have heard of VR, although they may not have actively engaged in its use. Most of the providers reported that they would prescribe the use of an immersive VR intervention for their older adult patients. This key point highlights the desire to implement VR strategies for patient use by their providers. If underlying barriers can be addressed and relatively resolved, this technological intervention has the potential to create substantial breakthroughs in clinical care.