How Penn Medicine uses VR to help ease anxious minds

Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center unveiled a virtual reality mindfulness program in September, allowing patients, hospital staff or visitors to relax at the facility, according to The Inquirer.

Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine partnered with a production group called Blue Design to create the meditative VR program. The 360-degree, three-dimensional computer simulation features calming music and images. A monitor near the setup allows people to see what the user sees.

Most patients catch on to the VR program quickly, as it is intuitive to use, according to Fern Nibauer-Cohen, director of patient engagement and business development at Penn Medicine. "It relaxes even the most anxious of minds," she told The Inquirer.

Future program development of the VR system could include simulated trips to a local museum, monuments or lost cities. Penn Medicine is also developing a virtual tour simulation of its oncology department, which patients could access from their own homes before visiting the hospital.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," James Metz, MD, chair of radiation oncology at Penn Medicine, told The Inquirer. He said VR will eventually be used to educate patients to better understand their diagnoses and treatments or to provide stress relief for healthcare providers.

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