A positive psychological intervention using virtual reality for patients with advanced cancer in a hospital setting: a pilot study to assess feasibility

Abstract

Purpose

This study presents data on the feasibility and possible benefits of a psychological intervention that uses virtual reality to induce positive emotions on adult hospitalized patients with metastatic cancer. The patient’s satisfaction and perceived utility was also examined.

Method

The sample was composed of 19 patients (53 % men, aged from 29 to 85 years old; x = 60.9; standard deviation = 14.54). The intervention consisted of four 30-min sessions during 1 week in which patients navigated through virtual environments designed to induce joy or relaxation. Mood was assessed before and after each session using the Visual Analog Scale. Patient satisfaction was assessed after each session and at the end of the intervention. Qualitative data were also collected with open-ended questions.

Results

There were no major difficulties with the use of devices, and any difficulties that did arise were solved through practice. There were adequate levels of pleasantness and perceived utility of the proposed intervention. The main perceived benefits were distraction, entertainment, and promotion of relaxation states. Regarding mood changes, an increase in positive emotions and a decrease in negative emotions were also detected.

Conclusions

The intervention was positively assessed and rated as minimally uncomfortable. Future actions are discussed as well as the need to implement brief interventions that take into account the patients’ medical state and physical discomfort level, especially with those in the advanced stages of disease.

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Acknowledgments

This work was partially funded by Generalitat Valenciana, PROMETEO (2008/157), Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología (PSI2010-09568-E). CIBER Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y Nutrición is an initiative of ISCIII.

Conflict of interest

The authors of this manuscript have no conflicts of interest to disclose. The authors have no financial relationship with the organization that sponsored the research. The authors have full control of all the primary data and agree to allow the journal to review the data if requested.

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Correspondence to Rosa M. Baños.

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Baños, R.M., Espinoza, M., García-Palacios, A. et al. A positive psychological intervention using virtual reality for patients with advanced cancer in a hospital setting: a pilot study to assess feasibility. Support Care Cancer 21, 263–270 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-012-1520-x

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Keywords

  • Virtual reality
  • Cancer
  • Positive psychology
  • Positive emotions
  • Mood induction procedures