In their minds, cystic fibrosis patients are cycling through an African safari, exploring the animals and environment.
In reality, they’re sitting atop a bike machine with a thick, black visor engulfing half their face.
The University Hospital Llandough in the U.K. is conducting a first-of-its-kind trial, implementing virtual reality into hospitalized CF patients’ physical therapy — a technique that’s being called “distraction therapy.”
About 80 percent of hospitalized CF patients had at least mild depressive symptoms when admitted in 2015. Depression leads to worse outcomes in care. The virtual reality motivates patients to exercise — a natural reliever of depressive symptoms — and could make patients feel less caged in during stays in the hospital ward.
Patient Beth Clarke said to BBC: “It really does take you to somewhere else for a few minutes. A hospital stay is never going to be enjoyable, the staff here are brilliant, but who’s going to enjoy being in hospital? So it’s great to just get out and get taken to another place for just a short period of time.”
Orchard, a creative content and communications business, is behind the project. Chief Operating Officer Matthew Wordley told the BBC that there are also plans to use wearable technology to monitors patients’ energy output. This technology could then be used to tailor the experience of the virtual reality to reach the patient’s maximum exercise potential.
The virtual reality program is delivered via a Samsung Gear VR headset. Samsung Galaxy phones act as a screen and are clipped to the front of the visor, which then fits over the patient’s eyes.
In addition to the virtual reality cycling experience, The All Wales Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre at University Hospital Llandough is coordinating with Swansea University to create games for hospitalized CF patients to play against each other. Cross-infection protocols keep CF patients isolated from each other in the hospital ward.
The All Wales Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre is the only adult CF center in Wales and currently serves over 280 patients. To learn more about the center, click here.
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