XR Network body virtual reality

Caitlin Rawlins, BSN, RN, assists a Veteran with using VR therapy following a total knee arthroplasty

On August 17, 2021, the Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem (VHA IE) and Wellovate announced the launch of a groundbreaking initiative using Wellovate’s Waya Health platform to enhance the care provided to Veterans. By collaborating with VHA IE, Waya Health’s innovative virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality tools enable Veterans to partake in VR immersion therapy, effective for managing pain, stress and anxiety; promoting relaxation; decreasing negative behaviors; and enhancing positive behaviors.

“We are extremely proud that we have the opportunity to collaborate with VHA IE and the VHA Extended Reality (VHA XR) Network to help prove the value of virtual reality in health care across its diverse facilities,” said Wellovate President Dr. Joe Morgan. “We believe that our cutting-edge technology will bring better and safer care to Veterans, while helping VHA reduce the costs of providing that care.”

Augmented reality can be a valuable therapeutic tool for Veterans. Through a previous three-year evaluation of Veterans using Waya Health’s VR tools in inpatient and long-term care settings at the Western North Carolina VA Health Care System (WNCVAHCS), in Asheville, N.C., 84 percent of Veterans reported reduction in discomfort, 89 percent reported reduction in stress, 96 percent reported enjoying their experience, and 97 percent said they would recommend it to their peers.

For this newly launched pilot program, Veterans and clinical staff in 12 VA Medical Centers across the country will use wearable headsets loaded with Waya Health software developed to address critical medical use cases.  This intention is to be a validation pipeline to develop, test and deploy VR solutions not only for Veterans, but also for physicians, clinical staff and patients outside VA, with the goal to determine the utility of VR in falls risk assessments, neurological risk assessment, palliative care, procedural use, acute and/or chronic pain management, and anxiety.

“A key to innovation is collaboration, and we are grateful for industry collaborators like Waya Health who are eager to ensure Veterans are given the opportunity to be the earliest adopters of tools that can transform the way we think about care delivery,” said Dr. Anne Lord Bailey, co-lead of the VHA XR Network and VHA Emerging Tech clinical specialist with VHA IE’s Diffusion of Excellence. “The opportunities are limitless for extended reality to assess, monitor and help manage numerous diseases; reduce the use of risky medications like opioids and sedatives; and really improve the quality of life for thousands of Veterans.”

Caitlin Rawlins, Innovation Specialist, co-lead for the VHA XR Network, and site lead for WNCVAHCS’s VR program added that “WNCVAHCS was very forward-thinking in offering the Waya Health platform to Veterans in 2018. The Veterans who participated in the Asheville pilot advocated strongly for VHA to expand the use of virtual reality in their health care. We highly value their perspective and are very excited about what this new, broader collaboration may reveal.”

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