Cancer patients are being prescribed with virtual reality headsets at a centre in Sydney, to alleviate the stress of chemotherapy.
The oncology patients can select from a range of VR experiences – including jumping from an aeroplane in a skydiving simulation, taking a boat ride through the Sydney Harbour and petting Koalas at a zoo – as they undergo arduous treatment sessions at cancer centre Chris O’Brien Lifehouse.
The VR initiative – resulting from a collaboration between Sydney studio Start VR, Samsung Australia and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse – is proving beneficial to the patient’s mental well-being, therapists said.
“Allowing patients to escape the experience of chemotherapy gives them a bit of space to forget what’s going on. In settings such as before surgery, patients are even more anxious. This gives them a distraction and allows them to keep their spirits up. Wellness isn’t just about the physical side of things, it’s also about mental wellbeing,” said Chris O’Brien Lifehouse complementary therapy director Michael Marthick.
Patients are given Samsung Gear VR headsets and select an experience from the Gear VR store or Start VR’s catalogue of content.
“We wanted to determine if VR had the potential to change people’s outlook on their current environment and we felt that a healthcare setting, where people sit and wait for periods of time, worried about unknown outcomes would be the right place to start,” said Start VR’s head of content Martin Taylor.
“Though after months of theory and planning, the true reward was meeting these incredible patients and seeing them experience instant joy through the power of VR. Exploring the application of VR in healthcare highlights an exciting pathway for this burgeoning medium.”