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Medicine - design partnerships: designing virtual reality for improved burn patient care
Upper Lobby
Medicine - design partnerships: designing virtual reality for improved burn patient care
Healthcare Specialist at frog design; Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery resident at Stanford
The acute injury of a burn followed by the days or weeks of frequent wound care and dressing changes is one of the most painful things a patient can experience. Opioid pain medications, the mainstay of... Read more

Description

The acute injury of a burn followed by the days or weeks of frequent wound care and dressing changes is one of the most painful things a patient can experience. Opioid pain medications, the mainstay of pain management, have well known short and long term side effects. Despite these medications, pain often remains inadequately controlled in burn patients.

Adjunctive measures for pain control, including distraction, are known to be effective. The immersive environment of virtual reality has been demonstrated in numerous studies to be a highly effective method of distraction for burn patients receiving wound care. However, virtual reality is not widely used in clinical practice outside of research studies because these systems are customized and expensive. Emerging systems such as the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift dramatically increase access to virtual reality, but even these may be too expensive for clinical settings, particularly if they are single-patient use to minimize infection control concerns.

Google Cardboard presents an opportunity to pair nearly ubiquitous smartphones with a sub-$10 cardboard box and lenses to create a virtual reality system suitable for healthcare. However, existing Google Cardboard headsets are not designed for a moist burn wound care environment; and nearly all existing games are designed with the assumption that the user is upright and able to look and move freely in a 3D environment, which is not feasible in patients receiving burn wound care.

This presented a design challenge – understand the patient and nursing constraints involved with burn wound care and design a headset and game suitable for these conditions. Dr. Brian Pridgen, a healthcare design fellow at global design and strategy firm frog and a Stanford Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery resident, presented these challenges to frog. Working collaboratively, we developed a prototype headset that is extremely affordable and feasible for use in the burn wound care environment. This headset is currently being tested in an ongoing pilot trial with burn patients, which has had excellent preliminary results. A game that will allow patients to remain appropriately positioned for burn wound care while being immersed in a distracting virtual reality environment is currently under development and will be ready to test soon.

This work is an example of the power of partnerships between medicine and design. Starting from a clinical need identified by Dr. Pridgen, frog is developing an experience for burn patients through product design and virtual reality software design to improve patient care. This solution could increase access to affordable virtual reality for patients worldwide in burn centers and inspire therapeutic applications in other clinical scenarios. We hope that this work serves as a model for future medicine-design partnerships to identify clinical needs, design practical solutions, and bring these solutions to patients and the healthcare system.

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