Virtual Sessions in Opioid Overdose Response Help Trains Responders Better

In a new study published in Drug and Alcohol Prevention, scientists found that training medical professionals and responders with virtual training tools to respond to opioid overdose responses, provides better results compared to in-person trainings.

At the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Department of Public Heath, investigators developed a virtual reality immersive video training, immersive video i-e- virtual reality, to tests weather it helps in gaining equivalent gain in opioid overdose knowledge response relative to in-person treatment of care. Results revealed equivalent improvement via virtual reality.

Study states that the in last 20 years, United States has witnessed over 200% increase in the death rates by opioid overdose. Yet many mortalities caused were preventable. Naloxone, also called Narcan, is a prescription drug used to reverse the opioid overdose. There is a standing order policy issued in over 40 states including Pennsylvania to make this drug available without an individual prescription from a healthcare provider.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, meaning it reverses the effects of opioid overdose rapidly. It normalizes the slowed or stopped breathing in a who is subjected to opioid overdose, says NIH. Also according to CDC, more than 450,000 people died of opioid overdose from 1999 to 2018.

Source: CDC

Immersive video (e.g. virtual reality) is believed to propose a a promising and engaging alternative to standard in-person trainings. It is presumed to considerably increase the access to evidence-based opioid overdose prevention programs (OOPPs). Therefore, the equivalent study aimed to test the equivalent benefits of the immersive video OOPP to a standard in-person OOPP for changes in opioid overdose knowledge and attitudes.

Nicholas Giordano, former Lecturer at Penn’s School of Nursing, says, that “Overdoses aren’t happening in hospitals and doctor’s offices. They’re happening in our communities: in parks, libraries, and even in our own homes. It’s crucial that we get the ability to save lives into the hands of the people on the front lines in close proximity to individuals at risk of overdose.”

A team of nurses and communication researchers developed a 9-minute virtual reality immersive video training to investigate whether this virtual reality treatment demonstrated equivalent gains in opioid overdose response knowledge and attitudes relative to in-person treatment. To test that, researchers positioned a two-day field experiment in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, where 9 libraries were randomly assigned to offer treatment.

Up to 94 individuals were recruited who were exposed to the virtual and they showed equivalent improvements. Further, they reported more favorable behaviour about responding to an opioid overdose in contrast to the in-person treatment sessions. Therefore, study concludes that virtual reality training is believed as an in-person training at giving the public both the knowledge and the confidence they need to administer naloxone and save lives.

The study shows that community partnerships, like those between public health departments and libraries, can provide opportunities for deploying novel immersive video OOPP that, alongside standard offerings, can strengthen community response to the opioid crisis.

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