Inova and appliedVR in Washington Business Journal

Inova and appliedVR in Washington Business Journal

D.C.-area hospitals turn to new tool to fight opioid crisis

Rising concerns about the opioid epidemic are causing more health care organizations to try on this technology.

Dr. Rett Embrey has seen the effects of America's opioid crisis firsthand.

Every month, at least a handful of patients are rushed into Inova Mount Vernon Hospital and Inova Lorton HealthPlex emergency rooms after taking too many painkillers or overdosing on drugs like heroin or Fentanyl. Even more misuse these drugs in the name of another ailment.

"It's a growing problem that we're trying to fight," said Embrey, chairman of the two emergency departments.

And now, in an effort to curb health care's role in contributing to opioid abuse, the Inova departments recently turned to a surprising, "inexpensive" tool for patients with pain: virtual reality. The emergency department has been using Samsung Gear VR kits loaded with immersive games and meditations from a California-based company called AppliedVR. The content is specially geared to help reduce both patient pain and anxiety without the use of drugs.

“If you can get someone who is focusing on pain to instead focus on something more productive, that’s immersive by removing the outside world and has enough of a cognitive load that requires their attention, you can reduce the amount of pain they feel,” said Josh Sackman, CEO of AppliedVR. He said the company has been working with about 50 hospitals, most of which began testing the technology within the last year. ”It is quite new and the way it is being used is quite different."

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