A few months ago UCHealth approached Robin and her husband, David Maestas, background, about a new opportunity UCHealth is offering to infusion patients: virtual reality.
Before Robin Maestas’ chemotherapy drip can be started, she is given an IV form of Benadryl to ward off any allergic reactions. The medication makes her anxious and uneasy. “It makes you want to jump out the window,” she said as she nods in the direction of the window of her private treatment room on the second floor of UCHealth Cancer Center – Harmony Campus in Fort Collins.
To treat her ovarian cancer, Robin was receiving her second-to-last round of chemotherapy. It requires a private room at the center’s outpatient infusion clinic because of its specifics. And she can sometimes be there up to eight hours.
A few months ago, Sarah Schoeneman, a certified nursing assistant for UCHealth Cancer Care & Hematolog in northern Colorado, approached Robin and her husband, David Maestas, about a new opportunity UCHealth is offering to infusion patients: virtual reality. Robin knew right away it was something she’d like to try — anything to help with the effects of the medication.
“Virtual reality has been used in health care for a couple decades now,” said Nicole Caputo, UCHealth’s director of experience and innovation. “We read the literature and research on its benefits and decided it was something we should see if our patients would benefit from.”
In health care, VR is being used for everything from pain management to combating loneliness in long-term care facilities to clinical education. Outside of health care, it’s popular in the gaming industry as well as in construction, where it showcases proposed designs.
UCHealth trialed VR with a pilot program in outpatient infusion. Infusion patients can sometimes spend hours sitting in one spot while they get their treatment. “We wanted to see if using virtual reality as a distraction improved our patient experience,” Caputo said. The results were overwhelmingly positive.