VA to develop an XR mental health app for aging veterans

Working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Mynd Immersive – a technology company that specializes in extended reality therapies for aging adults – will collaborate with VA Immersive, part of the VA’s Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning, to address the psychological wellbeing of Vietnam veterans. 


The company said the three-year cooperative research and development agreement will enable the combination of advanced virtual reality technology with original content from its studios and the agency’s deep understanding of Vietnam veterans’ emotional and psychological needs.

The virtual reality project for aging Vietnam veterans, A Path to Peace, will advance the emotional care of veterans, the company said.

The goal is “to create a safe and relaxing environment where Veterans can explore the modern vibrance of Vietnam while promoting reconciliation, peace and healing,” said Chris Brickler, Mynd Immersive CEO, in a statement.

To improve the development of the new XR application, Mynd said as part of its partnership with VA Immersive will engage veterans across the United States to gather firsthand experiences and perspectives that guide virtual journeys created specifically for Vietnam veterans.

The company noted its XR and VR technology is deployed in nearly 100 long-term veteran care facilities across the United States to improve mood, reduce feelings of isolation and improve the relationship between patients and their caregivers.


Vietnam Veterans represent the largest cohort of American Veterans in terms of service era, according to the VA’s Office of Research & Development. 

Back in 1988, the completed National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study concluded that “a substantial minority of Vietnam-era Veterans were suffering from a variety of psychological problems such as PTSD, and were experiencing a wide range of life-adjustment problems,” the VA said, pointing to its research on Vietnam veterans.

In a large, multiyear study with Stanford University, VR therapeutics elevated mood, reduced feelings of isolation and improved the relationship between senior-caregiver relationships.

Dr. Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, has noted that the benefits of VR are transformative for seniors.

In a survey of 245 older adults and 39 caregivers in 16 senior-care communities across 10 states, 94.9% said that using VR was “moderately to extremely beneficial to their relationship” with patients, while 89.5% of senior care residents surveyed reported the same about their relationships with their caregivers.

“The response from both the caregivers and seniors has been quite positive, suggesting that VR can be a sustainable and beneficial tool in senior care communities,” said Bailenson back in November when the study results were announced.

VR is the “goldilocks” answer to behavioral and mental health staffing shortages, Risa Weisberg, chief clinical officer at digital therapeutics provider Realized Care, told Healthcare IT News in 2022.

“These experiences, because they are fully immersive and processed as though they are actually happening to you, have promise to potentially show clinical effectiveness that may be more comparable to that of some in-person therapy, but with the flexibility of being utilized without a clinician present,” said Weisberg, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine.


“Immersive content can dramatically increase socialization in older adults with their caregivers,” Dr. Skip Rizzo, clinical psychologist and research director at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies for Medical Virtual Reality and founding member of Mynd’s advisory board, said in a statement. “This application represents a significant and powerful step forward in the emotional health and well-being of our veterans and those who care for them.”

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.


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