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Using virtual reality to gamify (and reward) stillness for MR patients

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | August 04, 2021
The MRI Stillness Game is expected to help reduce the duration of MR scans by helping them stay still
Miami Cancer Institute has teamed up with healthcare technology manufacturer Reimagine Well to create a virtual-reality experience for MR patients where staying perfectly still is rewarded in a gaming simulation.

"This Xbox-style educational game is a part of pre-MR acclimation. First, the patient can explore an MR suite in an Xbox-style environment on the laptop. The patient then puts on the VR headset and lies down. The headset can measure tiny movements of the head, and the game gives feedback to the patient (and staff) about their stillness," Roger Holzberg, founder of Reimagine Well, told HCB News.

One of Reimagine Well’s Experiential Education programs, the VR-based MRI Stillness Game comprises three levels that are timed to last the duration of the scan. The aim is to fill black and white worlds with vibrant colors, which is achieved by the patient keeping still. The first level is the rainforest, followed by a balloon fiesta and then a coral reef.
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As the patient holds the crosshairs in the center of the circle, their score increases and the sounds of the MR transition to those of animals. Meanwhile, the clinicians can use the patient's scores to determine if sedation is needed.

In addition to lowering anxiety and creating better patient experiences, the game is expected to reduce the need to reschedule appointments and increase facility throughput by shortening the duration of MR scans.

"For the hospital, when a patient is still, sequences do not need to be repeated, or MRs rescheduled," said Holzberg. "For patients, studies are suggesting that repeated sedation is harmful in young children. A strategy of preparation with experiential education has lowered the mean age of sedation at Nebraska Medicine from age ten to three."

Video games are becoming more common as tools to prepare and reduce anxiety in patients. They also are being used to teach clinicians practices that help enhance care and hospital operations. Level Ex, a video game manufacturer, for example, created a gaming app back in 2019 that allows cardiologists to test their catheterization lab skills in over 35 levels of interventional challenges designed to improve the cognitive, spatial reasoning and decision-making skills of cardiologists.

Reimagine Well has also developed programs to reduce anxiety for EEG exams, radiation treatments, and as customized and personalized distraction therapy.

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