Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Emmanuel Hospice has launched a virtual reality program to bring patients additional relief and to differentiate their hospice from its competitors.
Using a combination of virtual reality headsets, a handheld device and smartphone applications, patients can use the system to explore accurately depicted locales such as Paris or Amsterdam, as well as experiences such as scuba diving or skydiving.
The virtual reality program is part of a suite of complementary therapies available through the hospice.
“We wanted to be different than the other hospices. We have our other complementary services, such as a visitor program, massage therapy, music therapy and essential oils. So we want to supplement that with something different using contemporary technology,” Bryan Cramer, director of business development for Emmanuel Hospice, said. “That’s how we came up with the virtual reality program.”
The virtual reality scenarios contain interactive characters, such as tour guides in Paris, or a boatman to row the patient around a virtual waterway. One experience popular with some of the system’s users is a visit to the International Space Station, which includes a tour of the facility with the astronauts assigned to the station, Cramer told Hospice News.
Most patients can use the equipment with little difficulty.
“Any patient can use the system as long as they are physically able to handle the equipment. They don’t have to be mobile; they can have these experiences laying in their beds or sitting in a chair,” Cramer said. “We can adjust the visuals and sounds for comfort such as for brightness and other considerations. Anyone can participate.”
A benefactor donated the equipment to the hospice, and associated costs are minimal, limited to primarily to paid phone applications that typical cost less than five dollars, Cramer told Hospice News.
The hospice is currently working with videographers to design more personal scenarios, such as revisiting the location of a patient’s honeymoon or other significant life event, or even the patient’s childhood home.
“We’ll be able to take them places they may wish to revisit but are physically unable to go, where they might have been born and raised or someplace they have traveled. We get to take them back to those places,” Cramer said. “If they are in a nursing home or an assisted living facility, we can take them back to their original home. The best return on investment is seeing the patients happy.”