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Inova Mount Vernon Hospital Uses Virtual Reality to Assist With Patient Anxiety 

Technology helps in Emergency Department

Rett Embrey, MD, of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital has implemented virtual reality to ease patient anxiety.

Rett Embrey, MD, Chairman of the Emergency Department at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, has spearheaded the use of virtual reality to ease anxiety in some patients.

As part of Inova Mount Vernon Hospital’s (IMVH’s) commitment to finding new and effective non-pharmacological ways to reduce patient anxiety, its Emergency Department (ED) has begun to use virtual reality (VR) to assist with anxiety and pain management. The IMVH ED is among the first in the Washington, DC, region to employ this technology to enhance patient care and the patient experience.

VR technology offers patients a fully immersive distraction from certain short-duration ED procedures that can cause a patient to feel nervous or apprehensive, or cause momentary pain. Such procedures include needle sticking, changing the dressing on a wound or placing a cast on a broken limb.

When VR was first introduced several months ago, ED physicians and nurses noticed that the new therapy was not only highly effective, but it also equally benefited older and younger patients alike. “Any ED visit can be stressful, especially for children.  And pain — or even the thought of pain — is often one of the chief concerns of any patient,” says Rett Embrey, Chairman of the ED, IMVH.

Virtual reality offers immersive distraction helps to relax patients.

“Pain and anxiety are also known to have a negative effect on the patient experience and health outcomes in any hospital setting,” he adds. “If we can effectively manage these issues without resorting to long-working medications — which introduce new risks — just to solve a very short-term need, the value of that treatment option speaks for itself.”

All patients are carefully screened to evaluate whether VR might be an appropriate supplement to their ED care. Hospital ED Nursing Director Courtney Elliott, RN, adds that not every patient is a good candidate. “Virtual reality is a valuable new tool we now have available to aide in patient care, and it’s another way we empower our patients in their care,” she says.


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