Cornwall Research Project Using Virtual Reality as Distraction Therapy for Cancer Patients Publishes Results

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A doctor at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) has conducted his own research on cancer patients using a virtual reality headset as a distraction therapy.

Doctor Niall Moon wearing a virtual reality headset.

Dr Niall Moon, Internal Medicine Trainee, undertook the research during the COVID-19 pandemic. 60 patients receiving cancer or end of life care were recruited to the project.

The inspiration for the project came after Niall worked with patients who were feeling isolated by the hospital visiting restrictions that were in place during the pandemic. After working with virtual reality during his time as a medical student, Niall had the idea of using it to devise a distraction therapy. Patients would wear a headset to view 3D footage of the local landmarks such as Godrevy Lighthouse and The Eden Project with the aim of distracting them from the hospital environment they were in.

The results revealed that patients and clinicians rated it positively. They showed both statistical and clinical improvement in patient’s overall wellbeing and pain and anxiety scoring.

Now that the research has finished, Niall is looking at way the technology can be further utilised at RCHT. He is currently exploring using it for critical care patients and as a radiotherapy patient education tool.

Niall said “The project wouldn’t have been able to move forward without the help of the charity. From a financial point of view, I applied for funding through the RCHT Charity and the Dragon’s Den initiative. That’s where the majority of the funding came from. Publication and consumable costs were supported by the RCHT Research Charity.

Support for administrative side of things such as set up, ethics, getting a sponsor for our trial, all of that wouldn’t have happened without the research team here. It really was invaluable having their support and expertise to move forward. There were lots of things that I had never encountered before, being fairly junior in my career. The whole project wouldn’t have got off the ground without their help.”

The study team were Dr Niall Moon (former Clinical Fellow) Principal Investigator, Dr John McGrane (Consultant Clinical Oncologist) Chief Investigator and Jemima Henstridge-Blows (Clinical Fellow) Sub-Investigator.

Read the full published results here:

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