Are We Really Investing in Client Centric Care?
I’ve been a nurse for over 10 years, half of that time practising internationally in the Philippines and the other half in Canada. In that time, I noticed a very interesting trend when it comes to adopting technology and innovation. Not just for nurses & doctors but the whole healthcare team. While we champion personalization of care and client-focused approaches our adoption of new technologies appears focused on addressing our challenges and not those of our clients.
Case in point with Virtual Reality, listed as one of the top 10 healthcare innovations in CMO Today*. Besides a few trailblazer early stage attempts in places like Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital*, Bridgepoint Health* and a handful of others at using the technology including my team here at VR Vision Healthcare. Most of the R&D and investment in the past has been focused on the healthcare team such as The Stanford Virtual Heart*, Ottawa Hospital VR Surgical Radiation Planning*, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Paediatric Training*.
Directly Impacting Quality of Life
Technology has the uncanny ability to change the way we work, live and play at an incredible pace. We have seen in just the past decades how the internet and advances in medical equipment have transformed healthcare forever.
For the first time in human history, we can change our perception of reality without the use of traditional medication. VR/AR can engage patients in low-risk, artificially generated sensory experiences that could accelerate behaviour change in a way that is safer, more convenient, and more accessible to the consumer (Deloitte 2018 Global Health Care Outlook*).
When applied to direct client care VR can have incredible effects, allowing for:
- Reduction In Opioids Use, Cedars-Sinai Hospital*
- Pain Reduction, University of Washington Human Photonics Lab*
- Motor Rehabilitation, Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation*
- Tackle PTSD & Other Mental Disorders, USC Institute for Creative Technologies*
While deploying Virtual Reality sessions & deployments for leading care providers in Canada such as Providence Healthcare, Mon Sheong, Revera Living, West Neighbourhood House, Sahara Seniors and many others. My team and I have noticed a general improvement to client attitude – especially in seniors. Many become more vocal & communicative, others like Beth a 94-year-old lady who used to be a painter started moving her left hand – using a controller to paint after weeks of inaction after a mild stroke. Others would ask to visit the places they had lived or travelled to and marvelled to the changes. Almost 80% of the clients who use VR note feeling happier after using it and almost all ask to experience it again.
The Challenges of Adopting Virtual Reality in Healthcare
Not everything is easy with adopting new technologies & Virtual Reality is no different. Some of the biggest challenges of deploying in a healthcare setting are:
- Currently, most headsets weigh at 450g-600g depending on headset & accessories used. This is a limiting factor to eligibility of use and either eliminates clients completely or limits their time in VR.
- The safest experiences are delivered through PC powered VR headsets. This can be expensive as it required high-end PC’s to run and at times includes expensive/unpredictable software licensing models.
- VR is not easy, maintaining the hardware and software can add to a load of already overextended IT departments.
- There is a lack of therapy focused VR applications. Most of the applications that are available have not been designed for people with limited physical and cognitive abilities in mind.
- Until recently mobile VR systems such as Samsung Gear VR have seen some use in healthcare settings. Although not as costly as PC powered VR and easier to use – the challenge has been low battery life, heating, frame drops. This has been identified as a cause of nausea and dizziness in users.
- Headsets have predominantly been designed with senior users in mind. This means that face cushions had to be replaced with aftermarket alternatives that delivered mixed results and making infection control a challenge.
- The latest upcoming Standalone VR headsets such as the HTC Focus & Oculus Santa Cruz will help to greatly improve the user experience.
- By providing more processing power and motion tracking (6 degrees of freedom) and larger battery life they are likely to eliminate feelings of discomfort associated with VR use in the past.
- The lack of PC power will eliminate the added strain to IT
- The new headsets will also be lighter allowing for wider spread adoption.
- The HTC Focus will also come with custom face cushions tested for multi-person use and infection control when properly used/cleaned.
At Reality Well our in-house team of talented developers has helped create a platform that is specifically designed for healthcare in mind. These applications have been designed for the next generation of Standalone VR headsets.
- The controls are designed for limited to near zero mobility
- The applications are engaging while still safe & relaxing. There is also a continuous quarterly rollout of new VR experiences and improvements to the previous applications at no additional cost, thus keeping clients continually engaged with new content.
- The cost of the applications is forecastable and very well positioned for scale.
Seniors, Dementia & Personalization of Care
In 2018 the global cost of dementia is expected to surpass $1 Trillion according to Science Direct*. This comes as no surprise as correlated with the rapid increase in the number of seniors, especially in developed countries. Virtual Reality has been used to improve the quality of life for seniors living with dementia according to Alzheimer’s News Today*. The team here at VR Vision has been hard at work developing customized & personalized experiences that put the individual in a setting that is immediately familiar to them. More to share on this in a future post!
Improving Financial Performance
The systems, tools and technology we use need to continually evolve as there is clearly an impact to the client & staff. My position as a Nurse and technology leader is to embrace technology at all levels of the client experience.
A shift from the “trickle down” effect of using emerging technology by the healthcare team to empowering our clients with it will directly. This has been proven to greatly increase satisfaction scores and that has a direct impact on the financial performance of healthcare institutions.
New Opportunities & Challenges
Today’s exponential growth in computing power is marking AI, VR-AR, Autonomous Vehicles, Indoor Navigation and Robotics incredibly accessible. What was once considered science fiction is now a reality. Our challenge as healthcare professionals is polarizing away from trying to do the best we can with very little to choose what technology or approach will have the best and biggest impact to improving the quality of life of our clients.