BOONE — A national leader in the clinical use of virtual reality will partner with Boone-based company, Waya Health, to enhance care provided to U.S. military veterans.

“We are extremely proud that we have the opportunity to collaborate with Veterans Health Administration Innovation Ecosystem and the VHA Extended Reality Network to help prove the value of virtual reality in health care across its diverse facilities,” Wellovate president Joe Morgan said.

Morgan said the collaboration is the next step in part of what is essentially a national effort focused on using virtual and augmented reality in a clinical environment. VR is tailored to give patients an immersive experience, unlike more traditional forms of medicine. The three-dimensional aspect of the technology and the inclusion of both audio and visual stimuli can help relieve stress, pain and anxiety, and improve patient experience and the quality of patient care, Morgan said.

Waya Health has been working with the Department of Veterans Affairs for more than three years, evaluating veterans using the company’s virtual reality software in both inpatient and long-term care settings at the Western North Carolina VA Health Care System in Asheville. Outcomes from the three-year evaluation include reductions in discomfort and stress. 97 percent of participants said they would recommend the experience to their peers.

“The opportunities are limitless for virtual reality to assess, monitor, and help manage numerous diseases; reduce the use of risky medications like opioids and sedatives; and really improve the quality of life for thousands of veterans” Morgan said.

Caitlin Rawlins, innovation specialist, co-lead for the VHA XR Network, and site lead for WNCVAHCS’s VR program said, WNCVAHCS was forward-thinking in offering the Waya Health platform to veterans in 2018. The Asheville pilot demonstrated how virtual reality aids veterans with pain, anxiety, behavioral concerns, boredom, and challenges with relaxation.

“We believe that our cutting-edge technology will bring better and safer care to veterans while helping the VHA reduce the costs of providing that care,” Morgan said.

Veterans and clinical staff in 12 VHA medical centers across the country will use wearable headsets loaded with Waya Health software developed to address the six critical medical use cases: falls risk assessments, neuroligcal risk assessment, palliative care, procedural use, acute and/or chronic pain management and anxiety, according to Anne Lord Bailey, co-lead of the VHA XR Network and VHA Emerging Tech Clinical Specialist with VHA IE’s Diffusion of Excellence

“A key to innovation is collaboration, and we are grateful for industry collaborators like Waya Health that are eager to ensure veterans are given the opportunity to be the earliest adopters of tools that have the potential to transform the way we think about care delivery,” Bailey said.

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