VR: A Medical Direction

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Over Coffee® is on Christmas hiatus. We'll be rebroadcasting some of our most popular episodes from 2016 for the next few weeks. Have a great holiday! What if you had to spend a week in a hospital room? And what if your doctor could use virtual reality to help you "escape"--to just about anywhere else? That's exactly what Dr. Brennan Spiegel is currently exploring. Dr. Spiegel, who is the Director of Health Services Research in Academic Affairs and Clinical Transformation at Cedars Sinai, has been conducting studies in which he gives his patients virtual-reality headsets to "transport" them out of their hospital rooms. In addition to freeing the patients from what he calls the "biopsychosocial jail cell" that is hospitalization, Dr. Spiegel has had some surprising preliminary findings. Could virtual reality actually be more effective than narcotics, in managing pain? Nothing is conclusive yet. However, during his presentation at the IDEAS Los Angeles conference, in June of 2016, Dr. Spiegel told his audience that virtual reality, in his studies so far, appeared to have been more effective than opiates, in pain management! Currently, Dr. Spiegel is involved in a larger study of virtual reality and its uses in different hospital environments. (Here is a link to that study.) After the IDEAS conference, Dr. Spiegel explained how he first came to implement the use of virtual reality to help patients "escape" their hospital rooms. He also discussed his experiences, recent findings, and his vision for virtual-reality therapy in the future. On this edition of Over Coffee® you’ll hear: How Dr. Spiegel first became aware of the possibilities of virtual reality in a hospital setting; His experiences with introducing the system to patients on the first day of the experiment; The reasons some patients may not be eligible for a VR study; Positive reactions and responses from some patients who have used therapeutic virtual reality; His plans for a larger upcoming trial among Cedars-Sinai patients; The projected date for results from the larger study; Some of the best experiences Dr. Spiegel has had during the initial study of therapeutic virtual reality; What a patient may experience while wearing the virtual-reality headset; How the brain is functioning during the patient’s use of virtual reality; Dr. Spiegel’s vision for the future, with medical use of virtual or mixed reality. (This post is for informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please contact a healthcare professional if you have medical questions.)

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