Using virtual reality to improve health care providers⇔ cultural self-efficacy and diabetes attitudes: pilot questionnaire study

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Background: In southeastern Appalachian Ohio, the prevalence of diabetes is 19.9%, nearly double that of the national average of 10.5%. Here, people with diabetes are more likely to have a delayed diagnosis, limited access to health care, and lower health literacy. Despite the high rates of diabetes in the region, the availability of endocrinologists and certified diabetes care and education specialists is limited. Therefore, innovative strategies to address the growing diabetes care demands are needed. One approach is to train the primary care workforce in new and emerging therapies for type 2 diabetes to meet the increasing demands and complexity of diabetes care. Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of a virtual reality training program designed to improve cultural self-efficacy and diabetes attitudes. Methods: Health care providers and administrators were recruited from large health care systems, private practices, university-owned hospitals or clinics, Federally Qualified Health Centers, local health departments, and AmeriCorps. Providers and administrators participated in a 3-hour virtual reality training program consisting of 360-degree videos produced in a professional, cinematic manner; this technique is called virtual reality cinema (cine-VR). Questionnaires measuring cultural self-efficacy, diabetes attitudes, and presence in cine-VR were administered to providers and administrators before and after the program. Results: A total of 69 participants completed the study. The mean age of the sample was 42.2 years (SD 13.7), 86% (59/69) identified as female, 83% (57/69) identified as White, 86% (59/69) identified as providers, and 25% (17/69) identified as nurses. Following the training program, we observed positive improvements in all three of the cultural self-efficacy subscales: Cognitive (mean change –1.29; t65=–9.309; P<.001), Practical (mean change –1.85; t65=–9.319; P<.001), and Affective (mean change –0.75; t65=–7.067; P<.001). We observed the largest magnitude of change with the subscale, with a Cohen d of 1.16 indicating a very large effect. In addition, we observed positive improvements in all five of the diabetes attitude subscales: Need for special training (mean change –0.21; t67=–6.154; P<.001), Seriousness of type 2 diabetes (mean change –0.34; t67=–8.114; P<.001), Value of tight glucose control (mean change –0.13; t67=–3.029; P=.001), Psychosocial impact of diabetes (mean change –0.33; t67=–6.610; P<.001), and Attitude toward patient autonomy (mean change –0.17; t67=–3.889; P<.001). We observed the largest magnitude of change with the Psychosocial impact of diabetes subscale, with a Cohen d of 0.87 indicating a large effect. We observed only one significant correlation between presence in cine-VR (ie, Interface Quality) and a positive change score (ie, Affective self-efficacy) (r=.285; P=.03). Conclusions: Our findings support the notion that cine-VR education is an innovative approach to improve cultural self-efficacy and diabetes attitudes among health care providers and administrators. The long-term impact of cine-VR education on cultural self-efficacy and diabetes attitudes needs to be determined.