Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Virtual Reality Curriculum for Pediatric Residents Decreases Rates of Influenza Vaccine Refusal

Francis Joseph Real
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Objective: Influenza vaccine hesitancy is common in the primary care setting.  Though physicians can affect caregivers’ attitudes toward vaccination, physicians report uneasiness discussing vaccine hesitancy.  Few studies have targeted physician-patient communication training as a means to decrease vaccination refusal.

Methods: An immersive virtual reality (VR) curriculum was created to teach pediatric residents communication skills when discussing influenza vaccine hesitancy.  This pilot curriculum consisted of three VR simulations during which residents counseled graphical character representatives (avatars) who expressed vaccine hesitancy.  Participants were randomized to the intervention (n=24) or the control group (n=21).  Only residents in the intervention group underwent the VR curriculum.  Impact of the curriculum was assessed through difference in influenza vaccine refusal rates between the intervention and control groups in the three months following the VR curriculum.

Results: Participants included postgraduate level (PL) 2 and PL3 pediatric residents.  All eligible residents (n=45) participated and the survey response rate was 100%.  In patients aged 6-59 months, residents in the intervention group had a decreased rate of influenza vaccination refusal in the post-curriculum period when compared to the control group (27.8% v. 37.1%; p=0.03).       

Conclusions: This pilot study suggests that immersive VR might be an effective modality to teach communication skills to medical trainees. Next steps include evaluation of the curriculum in a larger, multi-site trial.

What’s New: Immersive virtual reality (VR) might be relevant in medical education as an innovative method to train physicians in communication skills.  This study demonstrated the impact of a VR curriculum on rates of influenza vaccine refusal at a primary care clinic.

Real FJ, DeBlasio D, Beck AF, Ollberding NJ, Davis D, Cruse B, Samaan
Z, McLinden D, Klein MD, A Virtual Reality Curriculum for Pediatric Residents Decreases Rates of
Influenza Vaccine Refusal, Academic Pediatrics (2017), doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2017.01.010.