Purpose: To develop and evaluate an inexpensive smartphone-based 360-degree Virtual Reality (VR) video depicting the patient perspective during radiation therapy as a supplement to traditional education methods, such as in-person patient classes or educational reading materials.
Methods: Two VR videos were filmed using a 360-degree camera to portray a CT simulation and delivery session of a head and neck patient and a breast patient. These videos would then be viewed by patients, by using a very inexpensive cardboard VR-Viewer and their smartphone, emulating an expensive VR-Headset. Each patient will be given their own cardboard VR-Viewer to keep, which is essential due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A study is being conducted to determine if this immersive audiovisual experience improves patient education and/or reduces anxiety about radiation treatment. Patients will watch the video and take a survey at different points in their care path, depending on their randomly selected grouping: prior to CT simulation, or after radiation therapy treatment.
Results: Largely favorable opinions have been received in the initial rounds of the study from healthy volunteers. Experiencing the CT simulation and radiation therapy sessions with the VR-Viewer improved the understanding of radiotherapy, reduced anxiety, and increased patient satisfaction. Notably, the resources previously attributed to in-person patient education were reduced greatly, such as booking for conference rooms and machine time.
Conclusion: This work indicates the potential for effective VR education for patients over the typical and resource heavy classroom-like education. The VR videos themselves can be constantly updated by implementing more information overtime and different videos can be made for other treatment sites. The videos can be watched anywhere the patient has internet, the VR-Viewer, and their smartphone, or simply on a computer screen, making it easily accessible either at the cancer center or at the comfort of their home.
Funding Support, Disclosures, and Conflict of Interest: 2021 SQIMM, Stanford Health Care