Improving Veterans’ inpatient experience through virtual reality

Our frontline team members are improving the inpatient experience by walking a mile in Veterans’ shoes, all through virtual reality (VR). This February, VA Immersive launched “Moments that Matter,” a pilot VR training program that directly addresses Veterans’ feedback on areas of improvement in the discharge process.

A VA employee participates in a VR training program.

VA employee experiences the inpatient discharge process.

Moments that Matter

A collaboration between the Veterans Experience Office (VEO) and VHA Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning, this program addresses impactful moments in common patient discharge scenarios. These scenarios are all identified through Veteran, caregiver and VHA staff input.

Instead of a traditional staff training, such as watching a video or a presentation, VA is tapping into its growing VR capabilities. VA is immersing staff into a computer-generated VA facility where they are able to experience the inpatient discharge process from the Veteran’s perspective.

In this VR experience, developed by VA, the user learns how to navigate the application in an initial tutorial module. Next, the experience takes the user through three different scenarios as a patient awaits discharge after surgery on an injured leg. As staff experience a virtual discharge process, they recognize gaps in care and are able to empathize with patients.

Diffusing empathetic care

For this training, frontline team members were hosted by Orlando VA and represented VA sites around the country. Staff represented the diversity of geographic locations, health care complexity and performance levels. They are leaders in their home facilities in either Veteran Experience or staff education and training programs.

Attendees have now returned to their home facilities with three VR headsets and the skills to replicate this training with their colleagues. After a six-week period, VEO will collect feedback from the trainees and their patient survey data to determine if this pilot was successful in improving the actual patient experience.

“We are thrilled to introduce immersive technology as a staff training tool to foster the empathic care our Veterans deserve,” said Dr. Paula Stokes, Research and Design division chief for VA Patient Experience. “We aim to not only meet their needs during a hospital stay but provide high quality care with an increased level of patient experience. Ultimately, we want VA to be our Veterans’ first choice for health care.”

Patient discharge can be complicated and challenging. If we can improve that process through a more immersive educational experience, we will improve the Veterans’ overall health care experience.

“VA Immersive: Defining a New Reality” is a regular series from VHA Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning (OHIL), focusing on how VA Immersive is defining a new reality in health care through virtual and augmented reality.

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