Developing and spreading innovative extended reality (XR) health care tools for Veterans is actively being integrated into the fabric of Veterans Health Administration (VHA). VHA Innovation Ecosystem’s (VHA IE’s) Care & Transformational Initiatives (CTI) has launched VHA’s XR Network.

The XR Network is the go-to source for knowledge sharing, staff training and clinical evaluation related to XR use in VHA. As a force multiplier, the XR Network brings together subject matter experts to provide guidance, distill best practices and contribute to the quality, safety, standardization and utilization of XR technology across VHA – all in the name of creating new care opportunities for Veterans.

XR is the collective name for virtual, augmented and mixed realities. VHA has the unique capacity to utilize XR and other immersive technologies to provide mission-driven, innovative health care to Veterans across the nation. Frontline staff across VHA utilize XR technology as a tool to improve patient outcomes with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression, as well as in clinical applications such as pain management.

Collectively, the XR Network’s members serve as thought leaders on how best to advance the spread of XR technology throughout VHA to better serve our Nation’s Veterans and ultimately impact health care delivery nationwide. The XR Network exists to amplify small-scale, grassroots health care innovations and expand them nationwide, leveraging lessons learned to help pave the way for future teams with radical ideas.

Since its launch in the fall of 2020, the XR Network has pitched to multiple program offices and external stakeholders, and is planning an expansive all hands virtual meeting on June 29. Additionally, the monthly Community of Practice call has grown to just over 160 participants representing over 60 VA facilities. In June, the XR Network plans to initiate its first multi-site quality improvement pilot, focusing on multiple inpatient and outpatient use cases.

Most importantly, XR is impacting Veterans lives right now. For example, almost three hundred sessions have been completed using XR as a distraction tool to help treat pain, stress and anxiety, boredom and restless behaviors while also aiding relaxation. For Veterans suffering from acute and chronic pain, 61% saw a drop in pain intensity thanks to use of XR. One hundred percent of Veterans using XR to aid with restless behaviors felt a decrease in restlessness following a session, and 67% of those Veterans also exhibited an increase in calm and cooperative behavior. Ultimately, these results just scratch the surface of how XR can impact Veteran care.

XR is on the cutting edge of health care, and by providing an extended network to develop and grow it this emerging tech, VHA IE is placing Veterans at the forefront of care. It is boundary-breaking work like this that VHA IE was built for. Learn more about how VHA IE is forging the future of Veteran care here.


Anne Bailey is an emerging tech clinical specialist at VA.

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