Virtual Reality Use for Symptom Management in Palliative Care: A Pilot Study to Assess User Perceptions

J Palliat Med. 2020 Sep;23(9):1233-1238. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2019.0411. Epub 2020 Jan 2.


In the past two decades, virtual reality (VR) technology has found use in a variety of clinical settings including pain management, physical medicine and rehabilitation, psychiatry, and neurology. However, little is known about the utility of VR in the palliative care setting. Moreover, previous investigations have not explored user perceptions of the VR experience in this population. Understanding user perceptions of the VR intervention will be critical for the development and delivery of effective VR therapies. To examine the utility of VR for palliative care patients, a pilot study of VR use was conducted with 12 adult patients diagnosed with life-limiting illness who were residents at a free-standing hospice facility. The intervention consisted of a one-time 30-minute VR experience. User perceptions were assessed through both quantitative and qualitative means, including participant responses to open-ended questions after the VR intervention. Acute changes in symptom burden were assessed using the revised Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale. Participants found the VR experience to be both enjoyable and useful, and the intervention was well-tolerated overall. This study provides support for VR as a promising new therapeutic modality for patients undergoing palliative care.

Keywords: alternative therapies; palliative care; symptom management; virtual reality.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care
  • Perception
  • Pilot Projects
  • Virtual Reality*