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Virtual reality therapy soothes Montana Children’s pediatric patients

Montana Children’s is collaborating with KindVR, a research-based company specializing in the use of virtual reality therapies, to help patients mitigate the pain and stress of medical procedures and conditions. Virtual reality therapy has been proven to alleviate the pain and stress of children during routine treatments such as portacath access procedures, MRI procedures, emergency visits, and operation preparations.

Using a virtual reality headset, patients at Montana Children’s now have the option to engage in a virtual underwater game that takes their minds off of an uncomfortable treatment and into the depths of the ocean where they get to color fish, dolphins, and whales that they encounter. Studies conducted by Hunter Hoffman, PhD, a cognitive psychologist and research scientist who specializes in virtual reality research, have found that patients who use the virtual reality therapy perceived less pain during treatment because of their ability to distract their minds.

“After my son’s appendectomy, he was in a considerable amount of pain,” says Ronna Glasgow Keim, the mother of 10-year-old Cash, a Montana Children’s patient. “Amy, the child life coordinator, brought him VR goggles to keep him visually and audibly engaged in order to take his focus away from the pain.” Cash notes that his pain subsided due to his ability to focus on something other than his uncomfortable situation. “The VR goggles were a big help because I thought of the ocean and what I was seeing and hearing instead of my pain,” he says. “It was fun shooting beach balls to color the sea animals.”

Using an in-house development team, KindVR has been able to create programs specific to certain medical procedures. In situations where a patient will need to hold a certain position, the game will direct and hold them in that position naturally. The following are the five programs that Montana Children’s patients currently have access to:

Aqua: KindVR Aqua has been developed to help patients manage their pain and stress due to medical conditions and hospital procedures. Example use cases include sickle cell disease pain and laceration repair in the emergency room.

Guided Meditation: A soothing guided meditation experience to help patients mitigate chronic pain and stress. The app is designed to teach pain coping strategies via breathing exercises.

MRI Practice: An interactive MRI experience that helps patients become familiar with the MRI scan process and to practice staying still. The MRI app is designed to educate, desensitize, and prepare patients for their MRI scans.

Look Up: KindVR Look Up has been custom developed for procedures such as mediport access. It encourages the patients to look up and keep their torso still, allowing for an easy and safe procedure.

Pre-Op: KindVR Pre-Op has been developed for patients to use before their surgery to help them lower their stress. It is customized specifically for patients on a gurney before being transferred into the operating room.

In total, Montana Children’s was able to fund four headsets thanks to generous donations from Northwestern Mutual and Child’s Play Charity. “We are proud to partner with KindVR, Child’s Play Charity, and Northwestern Mutual to provide this incredible technology to our patients,” says Carly Rickard, chief development officer at Montana Children’s. “Through their investment, we are continuing to foster a healing environment specifically designed for kids.”

Kalispell Regional Healthcare opened Montana Children’s in July 2019 as the first pediatric facility of its kind in the state. Already, the 190,000 square-foot facility has, and will continue to have, a significant impact on children in Montana and their families. Make a donation to support the health and healing of our region’s children. Your generosity can save lives.