Leading the way of the future, Dr. Anne Lord Bailey, Caitlin Rawlins, and Evan Davis have set out on the mission to define a new reality in health care through virtual and augmented reality solutions that enable a paradigm shift in care delivery and experience, reinforcing why Veterans and staff choose VA.
After Honorably Discharging from the Marines in 2016, Evan Davis made a career change that would forever shape the way that Veterans receive care. His desire was to help the Veteran community through the use of Recreational Therapy. As he traveled the world, he developed skills and knowledge of grants and opportunities for Veterans to receive care that was out of their reach.
When COVID hit in 2019, Evan had to figure out how he could still do his job from inside his home. With a background in gaming and a job at the VA, he started to explore virtual reality (VR) and its potential for impact on Veterans. Working with Veterans one-on-one, he was able to see the positive impact that immersive technology was having on Veterans after just a short 10-minute session.
One of the most impactful moments with a Veteran took place during a Recreational Therapy session with a patient who was not receptive to treatment. Deciding to use VR, Evan started an experience that put the patient into a Blue Angel jet. Nearly five minutes into the session the patient was still very tense and did not seem to be responding to the treatment that was being offered. Fearing the treatment was not receptive, Evan began walking the patient through verbal prompts that were met with a thumbs up as a form of understanding. As the session ended, the patient removed his headset and there were tears streaming down his face. Although there was not a lot of physical confirmation during the session, it became clear that he was certainly engaging with the therapy that was being offered. Before Evan could ask, the words “You brought me closer to my father,” came from the patient’s mouth and then explained that his father was a Navy pilot. Evan had no idea that his father was a Navy pilot prior to this moment. Evan stated, “This ability for him to really have a new perspective and look positively at his care obviously changed my life as well. I realized then that this has a much bigger impact than just the therapeutic session.”
Over the last four years, use of immersive technology has grown expansively in VA. Immersive technology includes both augmented reality and virtual reality, also collectively known as extended reality (XR). Today, VA is defining a new reality in Veteran health care by leading the nation in clinical implementation of immersive technology. VA has deployed over 1,200 VR headsets across more than 160 VA medical centers and outpatient clinics in all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico.
Currently, VA is leveraging immersive technology to offer a non-pharmaceutical approach to help Veterans address the day-to-day challenges of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, acute and chronic pain, and more. By engaging the senses of sight, sound, and touch, immersive technology brings a new level of engagement to each Veteran’s health care experience through sessions that last anywhere from ten to thirty minutes.
Additionally, immersive technology increases health care access by offering Veterans opportunities to receive care at medical care facilities and from the comfort of their home. Rawlins added, “Building on the concept of personalized care, access to more virtual reality devices, even outside of VA facilities, could expand the reach of VA healthcare and our clinicians while providing an engaging and safe tool to improve care and further empower Veterans to participate in their care.”
Driving towards the future with ambitious goals, the VA Immersive team is working hard to put more heads in headsets, encouraging and empowering frontline staff to lead. Dr. Bailey stated, “One of the great things about this kind of amazing growth is that it has been driven by frontline staff and clinicians with Veterans at the center. It's been very much from the ground up and is part of a thriving culture of innovation that VA and VA Immersive will continue to support.” To learn more about immersive technology in VA, reach out to [login to see] or check out https://rly.pt/VAimmersive