VR pilot allows patients to achieve bucket list goals

8 February 2024

A patient is shown how to use the VR headset

As a hospice, St Wilfrid’s in Sussex is committed to enabling people to live well at the end of their life. This includes having positive experiences and doing things they enjoy.

One of the things many of their patients have is a bucket list, which often includes travel. However, for some people that is no longer possible. Staff at St Wilfrid’s were keen to see if the next best thing – the opportunity to visit places or experience things virtually – could help their patients, so they requested a modest grant from the WCIT Charity to conduct a VR pilot.

With their grant they purchased an Oculus Quest VR headset, GoPro 360° camera and various apps. The camera has been used to film local areas, and a private YouTube channel allows staff to provide bespoke experiences for their patients.

Rachael, the Digital Health Project Lead, said: “Virtual Reality offers a wonderful opportunity to experience something a bit different. Users can virtually walk down streets, visit numerous places across the world, play instruments or just enjoy guided meditations. There really is something to suit everyone.”

In this short pilot, the hospice hoped to engage at least five patients with the technology, cognisant that it would not be appropriate for everyone. They were therefore delighted that ten patients took part. All users reported feeling less pain and anxiety during their experience, all found it a positive and enjoyable experience, and all said they would like to use the headset again.

Now the hospice has the equipment, there will be minimal ongoing costs and use of the headset will be offered to many more patients in the future. While its primary use will be to offer patients virtual experiences and activities, there is also the potential to use VR for clinical training too.

Rachel concluded: “The pilot project provided an excellent learning opportunity, and will help us to make the project smoother and better for future users.”

A poster used to advertise the service