Waya Health has announced a new collaboration with the Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem (VHA IE) Extended Reality (VHA XR) Network. The current initiative builds on the findings of a 3-year study that incorporated Waya Health’s virtual reality platform into the post-operative care of veterans at the Charles George VA Health Care Center in Asheville, NC.

The previous study focused on the use of the Waya VR platform in distraction-based immersion therapy for veterans as part of an Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocol. ERAS addresses pain with a multimodal approach designed to reduce the use of opioid pain medications and improve the recovery experience. Within the holistic ERAS system, VR helps minimize the use of all pharmaceuticals in pain relief.

The VR techniques applied during the study allowed participants to experience realistic, physical interactions in a 3-dimensional, digitally-generated environment. The immersive environment directs the patient’s attention away from their pain, a technique shown to affect how the brain processes pain signals. VR therapy alleviates anxiety, stress, and boredom; reducing these negative emotions has a positive effect on pain levels.

In a survey conducted during the extended study’s initial phase, 96% of participants said they enjoyed the VR experience; 84% reported reduced discomfort, 89% said they felt less stressed, and 97% would recommend VR therapy to their peers. The Charles George VA Health Care Center won the 2019 Pathway Award for the program.  Presented by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the award honors innovative initiatives that use technology to enhance the practice environment of nurses. 

The current collaboration involves a pilot study designed to evaluate the use of VR in areas such as neurological risk assessment, fall risk assessment, acute and chronic pain management, anxiety, and palliative care. The pilot will use wearable headsets equipped with mission-specific Waya Health software. Participants include clinicians and veterans at 12 VHA medical centers across the country. 

After completing the earlier study, veterans strongly advocated for the VHA to make VR technology part of their overall healthcare. Although the VHA has deservedly experienced some harsh critiques regarding the quality of care provided to veterans, the Administration has developed leading-edge technology solutions for a broad range of health concerns, from telehealth treatment for mental health conditions such as PTSD, to enabling technology for the blind, to innovative treatments for cancer. In many ways, the VHA has been blazing new trails in healthcare.