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Impact of a Virtual Reality Curriculum on Human Papillomavirus Vaccination: A Pilot Trial

      Although the strongest predictor of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination is a high-quality recommendation, physicians often provide weak recommendations. Thus, the authors developed Virtual Immersive Communication Training on Recommending Immunizations (VICTORI), a virtual reality (VR)‒based intervention that provided physicians the opportunity to deliberately practice recommendation behaviors. VICTORI included VR simulations during which participants counseled caregiver avatars hesitant to vaccinate. Before participation in VICTORI, participants reviewed a smartphone application on recommendation behaviors. A nonrandomized control trial of VICTORI was conducted with licensed and resident physicians. The intervention group completed the application and VICTORI simulations, whereas a comparison group completed only the application. The hypothesis was that HPV vaccination rates would increase for patients in the intervention group. The preintervention period was defined as the 6 months before allocated training (February 1, 2020–July 31, 2020), and the postintervention period was the 6 months after (October 1, 2020–March 31, 2021). The primary outcome was a change in the rates of human papillomavirus vaccine initiation among eligible patients presenting to clinic before and after. Of 142 eligible physicians, 134 (94%) chose to participate, with 93 of /97 (96%) intervention and 30 of 37 (81%) comparison participants completing study protocols. There was a statistically significant increase in patients’ HPV vaccine initiation rates after training within the intervention group (54.3%‒72.4%; 18.1% difference [95% CI=11.0, 25.8]; p<0.001) but not within the comparison group (59.5%‒63.4%; 3.9% difference [95% CI= −11.0, 19.0]; p=0.609). In conclusion, HPV vaccine initiation increased after VR training, and further study is warranted.
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