Comparing the Costs and Benefits of Virtual Reality and the Certified Child Life Program for MRI Preparation

We explored the impacts and feasibility of using our VR-MRI program to prepare kids for MRIs.


The Digital Lab



Virtual Reality


Over 4,500 children and youth take MRIs at BC Children’s Hospital (BCCH) every year. Waitlists can be long, even up to 2 years for patients who want sedation medication for their MRI. Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) are trained professionals who support kids through preparing for, and completing, their MRIs. This extra support can help reduce the need for sedated MRIs, and speed up wait times. However, CCLS aren’t always easily available for kids. We previously created a VR preparation tool for MRIs, and explored the use of virtual reality as a way to prepare and support kids receiving MRIs.

Our goal in this study is to make our VR-MRI tool more available, and to explore its impact. We want to understand the potential for our VR-MRI preparation tool to work together with current options for MRI preparation at BCCH, to improve access, cost-effectiveness, and patient experience.

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We are currently working on comparing the costs of receiving VR-MRI and CCLS preparation. To do this, we are estimating costs of delivering each of the different types of preparation for patients and families, the hospital and society in general. For example, we are looking at what it costs to travel to visit a CCLS compared to using VR at home. We will also share these findings in the context of the benefits we discovered during our previous trials of VR-MRI.

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In our previous research, we found that VR-MRI was just as effective as our hospital’s programs for preparing kids aged 4-to-13 for a non-sedated MRI. At our hospital, 82% of eligible patients who were prepared with a Child Life Specialist are successful in non-sedated MRIs. We also know that being prepared with a CCLS is helpful, but isn’t always available depending on location and costs of travel. We expect that the costs required to use VR-MRI and CCLS in practice will be different. Our overall findings will help us and decision-makers at hospitals understand different costs and impacts that these two preparation tools could have.

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Potential Impact

Preparation tools like our VR-MRI may be able to reduce the need for sedated MRIs by about 20%. If this preparation method is widely available, it could have a meaningful impact on wait times, improving patient experiences and safety, as well as reducing costs for our hospital. VR-MRI offers patients practice with the MRI process with different staffing and travel costs of typical in-person preparation methods.

We are hoping to find out if VR-MRI may allow people from a wider range of locations to prepare for their MRIs in an affordable and accessible way, and reduce the need for sedated MRIs. This could allow faster, more accessible preparation for kids who need MRIs.

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