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University of Bayreuth, Press Release No 179/2021 - 08 December 2021

Virtual reality in nursing: International prize for Bayreuth doctoral student and her study on the use of VR glasses in nursing homes

Lena Schinner, health economist and doctoral student at the Medical Management & Health Services Research Group at the University of Bayreuth, is investigating "virtual reality applications to reduce social isolation and loneliness among residents in nursing homes". For this study, she has now received the ORPEA Excellence Award in the category of "Research" in Paris.

Lena Schinner, in Medical Management and Health Services Research at the University of Bayreuth, investigated the extent to which modern digital developments such as virtual reality can make everyday care easier. Specifically, the study involved the development and evaluation of an innovative virtual reality concept to remedy the loneliness and social isolation of residents in nursing homes. Residents, their relatives, and especially caregivers were closely involved in the research project. Practical relevance and scientific relevance could thus be optimally combined.

The study consisted of a qualitative preliminary study in selected nursing homes and a broad online survey among employees of the nursing home operator ORPEA in Germany. As part of the study, relatives filmed scenes from everyday family life at home, the garden, birthday parties, or the office of a person in need of care. These 360-degree videos were shown to residents through VR glasses. In this way, the care recipients gained the impression of being part of a family celebration themselves, or were "taken" to places of their former lives. One result was that although there were still technical uncertainties among current residents in nursing homes, the evaluations of the qualitative study showed positive reactions to the extended VR concept (eVR) developed. There was also positive feedback from staff because these films could be used, for example, as part of the one-on-one care as legally required in Germany. 

Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Nagels and doctoral student Lena Schinner.

Another result of the study is particularly important for the discussion on innovations in nursing. "There is hardly any nursing home in Germany that has wi-fi. This is despite the fact that good technical infrastructure is essential in order to be able to implement digital approaches, for example to facilitate digitalization measures that relieve the burden on staff, such as care robots," explains Lena Schinner. Last but not least, unforeseen events such as the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and, above all, the future "digital" generations that will inhabit these homes, point to the urgent need for a digital transformation process in nursing homes, according to Schinner.

Possible solutions for the growing need for care are at the top of the political agenda, and not only in Germany - which is why Lena Schinner's study is an important contribution. "The results of her study underline the effectiveness and acceptance of the VR approach," says Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus H. Nagels, Chair of Medical Management & Health Services Research at the University of Bayreuth, where Lena Schinner is doing her doctorate. "The study results also suggest that, in addition to the technical requirements, further training programmes for staff will be necessary in order to implement digital measures to be prepared for the future digital needs of residents in nursing homes," he advises. In the view of Chair Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus H. Nagels, a stronger focus on innovations is inevitable in view of the major problem areas in the nursing sector - financing, shortage of skilled workers, and modernisation. Nagels and his team are already planning further studies on digital transformation in care.

About the prize: 

For the seventh time, the International Scientific Ethics Council (ISEC) of the ORPEA Group has presented its ORPEA Excellence Awards. Each year, the teams that submitted the best projects in the categories "Research", "Clinical Ethics", and "Innovation in Care" are recognized. This year, the winners were selected from 44 projects from 12 countries. ISEC is chaired by Professor Joël Belmin, professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris and Head of the Geriatric Department of Cardiovascular and Neurocognitive Diseases at the world-famous Hôpital de la Salpêtrière in Paris. He is supported by Dr Linda Benattar, International Medical Director of the Orpea Group. The internationally active ORPEA Group, headquartered in Paris, operates 1,156 nursing and healthcare facilities providing 116,514 beds in 23 countries.

Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Nagels

Chair of Healthcare Management and Health Services Research

University of Bayreuth
Parsifalstraße 25
D - 95445 Bayreuth

Phone: +49 (0) 921 55-7080

Anja-Maria Meister

PR Spokesperson University of Bayreuth

Phone: +49 (0) 921 / 55-5300