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Lee Health Offers Innovative Virtual Reality Technology to Patients

From Bethany Schroll, physical therapist at Gulf Coast Medical Center’s Skilled Nursing Unit

At Gulf Coast Medical Center, we are offering innovative virtual reality technology to patients in our skilled nursing unit.

Originally obtained for COVID-19 patients within the hospital, the virtual reality units enable patients to do things like virtually ride a bike, garden, play bingo and even go deep sea swimming while they are inside a hospital room.

Being in isolation was lonely for many of our COVID-19 patients and we wanted to do something to lift their spirits while helping them recover. That’s how this program was started.

We knew we needed to get creative, so we explored virtual reality and got units that we could thoroughly sanitize and take into the patients’ room. It has made such a difference in their physical and mental health.

Once the COVID-19 unit within Gulf Coast’s Skilled Nursing Unit closed due to lower numbers of COVID-19 patients within Lee Health’s hospitals, we began using the virtual reality technology for our skilled nursing patients. For many of the seniors within the unit, it has helped them become more engaged in their physical therapy.

There are two different kinds of virtual technology units available at Gulf Coast’s Skilled Nursing Unit. One is an OmniCycle, a therapeutic exercise system, and the other is a virtual reality machine, a device with a TV-like screen.

The technology has been proven to help with fall prevention and balance, pain management, better breathing, and overall better patient outcomes.

We had one patient who refused to do any type of physical therapy. Once we got her to try the virtual technology, she started virtually gardening, and that bridged the gap from the virtual world to the physical world. After that, we got her to participate in physical therapy, which was so beneficial for her.

Gulf Coast received this equipment in the fall of 2020, and since then, we’ve had several virtual outdoor activities, including a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving where patients even got a medal for a being a top finisher.

Overall, this technology has just been amazing and our patients have loved it.