Virtual Reality-Based Music Therapy in Palliative Care: A Pilot Implementation Trial

J Palliat Med. 2021 May;24(5):736-742. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2020.0403. Epub 2020 Nov 23.


Background: Music therapy (MT) and virtual reality (VR) have shown favorable patient-reported outcomes during serious illness. Objectives: To evaluate implementation measures of feasibility, usability, and acceptability of a VR-based MT intervention. Design: A pilot implementation study of a two-day VR-MT intervention using mixed methods. Patients created a personalized soundtrack with a music therapist, and then paired the soundtrack with a 360° VR environment. Setting/Subjects: Hospitalized patients with palliative care needs. Results: Of 23 patients (ages 20-74 years, 52% women), 17 completed the intervention, including 39% during an intensive care unit stay. Participants scored usability above average. For satisfaction, 53% chose the highest rating. Most participants spoke favorably of VR-MT, describing pleasant emotional and physical responses. Participants provided feedback on length, frequency of use, VR options, and timing of delivery. Conclusion: This VR-MT intervention was feasible, usable, and acceptable for hospitalized palliative care patients. Further study will test VR-MT outcomes.

Keywords: music therapy; palliative care; virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Music Therapy*
  • Music*
  • Palliative Care
  • Virtual Reality*
  • Young Adult