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Using virtual reality training to potentially increase the uptake of home dialysis

23 August 2022

Peritoneal dialysis, in-centre dialysis and home haemodialysis are types of dialysis that kidney patients can receive. More patients are being offered the option of home dialysis, but this shifts the responsibility of care more towards the patient and their carer and has the tendency to increase anxiety regarding administration of dialysis and feelings of isolation.

These factors often prevent patients from taking the option to dialyse at home. To allay their fears and anxiety, adequate amount of information and training must be provided to allow patients make informed choices. This is sometimes challenging, however, developing innovative ways to provide this information and training to patients may promote the uptake of home dialysis. 

Ben Reynolds
Dr Ben Reynolds

Developing the VR application

Dr Ben Reynolds from Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow, in collaboration with virtual reality expert, Professor Charissis and his team, hope to develop a virtual reality (VR) application for home dialysis with the hopes of better educating patients about the process. 

In addition to the in-person training that hospital facilities offer, Ben hopes that the developed application will provide the “experience” of setting up and delivering a home dialysis session, providing a training package that is comprehensive and accessible to patients and carers looking to undertake home dialysis.

This virtual experience removes the risk to patients as there is no physical impact, as well as reduced monetary and personnel cost of training. It also eliminates the constraint of time in training as VR devices can be taken away by potential users for as long as they want. This will allow patients make better informed decisions regarding the type of dialysis they choose. 

Ben Reynolds virtual reality research
Nurse testing virtual reality tool

The use of VR application for home dialysis patients is expected to help allay fears and anxiety that patients often have in administering dialysis at home. This could help dialysis patients make better informed decisions on the type of dialysis they choose. Also, if more patients take up the option of home dialysis, it has the potential to reduce the duration of admissions or number of outpatient clinics that they need to attend. 

Ben said: “We are delighted to have been selected to receive the Lady Judith Solomon award, to allow development of a novel virtual reality-based educational tool for patients and families considering home haemodialysis.

"We hope that we can expand on our already developed package in peritoneal dialysis, to create a tool that helps patients make informed decisions about the type of dialysis that suits them best.  We also hope that the additional support will ease some of the anxieties that patients often have when contemplating and undertaking a home-based therapy.”

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