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$2.9 million in federal funding will support clinical trials of VR to treat acute and chronic pain

DANVILLE, Pa. – Geisinger’s Steele Institute for Health Innovation and Musculoskeletal Institute are partnering with AppliedVR, the leading pioneer of therapeutic virtual reality for pain management, to study virtual reality as an opioid-sparing tool for acute and chronic pain.

AppliedVR has received more than $2.9 million in funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to conduct clinical trials of two virtual reality therapeutic platforms. The trials will be conducted in cooperation with both Geisinger and Cleveland Clinic.

“Geisinger continues to develop strategies to provide patients with alternatives to opioids,” said Karen Murphy, Ph.D., Geisinger’s chief innovation officer and founding director of the Steele Institute. “We look forward to studying the impact of virtual reality on pain control.”

AppliedVR’s innovative virtual reality headsets transport patients to environments that teach essential skills for coping with pain, including breathing techniques, mindfulness and positive thinking. This platform has been used to care for those with chronic and acute pain as well as anxiety before, during and after surgery, childbirth, oncology infusions, emergency room procedures and rehabilitation sessions.

“We believe that if virtual reality can modulate pain in a meaningful way, patients at Geisinger will be able to reduce their reliance on opioids,” said Michael Suk, M.D., chair of Geisinger’s Musculoskeletal Institute and Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. “This has the potential to reduce the number of opioids used in the hospital as well as during at-home recovery.”

Geisinger is using virtual reality platforms to help patients manage pain after knee replacement surgery and to support patients with chronic lower back pain.

“This project is a model example of industry and our clinical enterprise collaborating to positively impact patient outcomes,” said Dr. Suk.

About Geisinger
Geisinger is among the nation’s leading providers of value-based care, serving 1.2 million people in urban and rural communities across Pennsylvania. Founded in 1915 by philanthropist Abigail Geisinger, the nonprofit system generates $10 billion in annual revenues across 126 care sites — including 10 hospital campuses — and Geisinger Health Plan, with more than half a million members in commercial and government plans. Geisinger College of Health Sciences educates more than 5,000 medical professionals annually and conducts more than 1,400 clinical research studies. With 26,000 employees, including 1,700 employed physicians, Geisinger is among Pennsylvania’s largest employers with an estimated economic impact of $15 billion to the state’s economy. On March 31, 2024, Geisinger became the first member of Risant Health, a new nonprofit charitable organization created to expand and accelerate value-based care across the country. Learn more at or follow on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and X.

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