Leveraging VR to Prevent Burnout in Healthcare
Preliminary results broken down
Healthcare can be a stressful field to work in, especially in these times. Many care providers have been (and are still) pushed to their limits in this demanding industry. 👩⚕️
This makes us look back to the immersive stress-reducing program we worked on some time ago, in collaboration with LCI LX (previously ellicom) and Northwell Health, through which we studied the mental and physical effects of immersive experiences on the cognitive ability, motivation, and general well-being of health practitioners. The goal of this study was mainly to combat symptoms of burnout in a clinical environment using our intuitive XR software, StellarX.
As it turns out, the simple act of putting a headset on, and being able to escape to a whole other reality, proves to be a great way for workers to loosen up when the pressure reaches unbearable highs. Indeed, the mindful VR meditation program — which, might we add, won us a LTEN Excellence Award in the Innovation category, as well as a Brandon Hall Group Silver Award for Best Advance in Corporate Wellbeing Technology — generated very encouraging results in a short amount of time.
. . .
First, a bit about the parameters of the study:
For the experience to take place, Virtual Reality headsets were made available to North Shore University Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit staff, and Palliative Care Unit staff. The participants were asked to partake in five short immersive meditation sessions, taking place in the clinic, and were instructed to take up to one month to complete them.
Long-term effects of this experiment are still to be determined; but we have here broken down what was found out after a 1-month follow-up with the participants.
Overall, the participants most frequently picked the 10-minute meditation session, followed by the 15 minute, and 5 minute sessions.
The participants were given access to three different VR sceneries: The Mountain Marvels, set in a northern forest landscape, The Tropical Island, a small white-sand beach in the middle of nowhere, and The Lakeside Shores, featuring a friendly dock and a small lake. The immersive environment selected most often was the beach, followed by the forest, and the lake landscape.
Furthermore, the participants had the option to accompany their meditation with a combination of music and narration (in the form of a calming, guided meditation), or with music only. The most selected option of the two was the latter.
Other parameters of the virtual environments, such as the visual scenery in itself, could be modified at will by the participants to ensure a completely optimal — and tailored — experience. To read more about this project from a design and user-experience standpoint, check out our Real Story: Safe Spaces.
Now delving into the heart (ha! 🤓) of the matter:
Compared to baseline results, a decrease in the participant’s blood pressure was observed as soon as the first regular session. Talk about quick! ⚡️ After the one-month period, the study also showed a decrease in average heart rate (at an average of -2.5 BPM), as well as a decrease in average blood pressure (at an average of -6.5 mmHg).
Participants reported "feeling good after the session", "feeling more relaxed" and "overall pleased" with the experience. Some also commented that they "liked the sunset", "almost fell asleep", "felt like they were about to doze off, very relaxed", and found it "nice to see the waves" to the point of wanting "to jump in the water".
. . .
COVID-19 has forced rapid change across much of society; many industries will never be the same, which is why there are several interesting experiments taking place — and opportunities being created — in these areas. The observations from this study make us wonder about all the possibilities unlocked by the immersive qualities of Virtual Reality. It can truly transport the user into another dimension, tricking the brain into thinking it’s really there; which we believe wouldn’t be possible (or at least, as convincing) with other alternatives such as video, 360 video, or even mobile VR. If we could gather such promising results after only a month of relatively regular StellarX sessions, imagine what could be done in the long-term! Immersive technologies truly hold the power to solve many concerns — starting with burnout in the healthcare industry, and stopping… who knows where?
To finish up, here’s the full infographic summarizing everything you just read. Feel free to share if it captivated your interest (and don’t forget to tag us)! 🥳