Qualitative Validation of a Novel Virtual Reality (VR) Program for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A VR1 Study

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Background: Although gut-directed psychotherapies are effective for IBS, they are rarely prescribed given a paucity of trained clinicians. Virtual reality (VR) offers a solution by allowing patients to self-practice these techniques in a standardized manner.

Methods: A multidisciplinary team developed IBS/VR, a program that transports users into immersive VR worlds that teach patients about the brain-gut axis, cognitive behavioral therapy, and gut-directed meditation. We tested IBS/VR in Rome IV IBS patients and used inductive analysis to evaluate perceptions and identify recommendations.

Results: We achieved thematic saturation after nine interviews; three additional interviews revealed no emergent themes. After making 23 software changes based on patient feedback, we conducted three additional interviews which confirmed thematic saturation (N=15 total).

Discussion: This study offers initial validation of the first VR program designed for IBS.

January 7, 2022