How VR became a powerful tool for patient experience at Hoag

Newport Beach, Calif.-based Hoag Hospital is deploying virtual reality technology throughout its organization and has seen an increase in patient satisfaction, experience and compliance, which is why Thomas Hutchinson, executive director of digestive health and experiential reality at Hoag Hospital, believes this is the right time to become a market leader in the space as the technology is set to "explode" within the industry. 

In January 2020, Mr. Hutchinson and Robert Louis, MD, a neurosurgeon at the health system, spearheaded an effort to roll out VR technology, from REAL System, to help patients with pain management after surgery, infusion and opioid reduction.

During the rollout, Mr. Hutchinson and Dr. Louis found that if a patient was in pain or felt stressed or anxious, 10 to 20 minutes of VR experience was able to decrease all of those feelings and relax the patient. 

"Once we got about 1,000 patients through the headsets and were able to gather significant data points, we said, well how else can we roll this out to the outpatient setting?" Mr. Hutchinson told Becker's

The health system began rolling out VR to its chemical dependency, acute rehab units and now its palliative care Hoag at Home program.

"We keep rolling it out and we keep finding more and more patients and providers are very interested in seeing the results and substantiated results that improve patient satisfaction, compliance and their experience," Mr. Hutchinson said. 

Mr. Hutchinson said although a lot of institutions are hesitant to make significant financial investments in VR due to fears of return on investment, he sees that changing.

"The nice thing is it's a reusable headset and it's not one headset for one particular disease type. It's one headset across all different programs," Mr. Hutchinson said. "And when you can find ways to either attract patients to VR, that's market share, or increase in compliance with their care program, which of course, gets them healthier, quicker. It's a much better return for both the patient for cost effectiveness and of course, for profitability." 

Mr. Hutchinson also believes VR technology is finally seeing a breakthrough in healthcare as it continues to get better and improve its graphics. 

"​​I think VR is going to allow patients to have a greater level of engagement that they didn't have before and once that's realized, everyone's going to want to try on a headset," Mr. Hutchinson said. "I think that's all it takes. Once you turn on the headset, you're sold, and I would say VR adoption in general, not just for healthcare, is going to take off."

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