How Augmented Reality Helped AccentCare Improve Patient, Staff Satisfaction

 | 

AccentCare’s augmented reality (AR) hospice program has led to improved patient satisfaction and symptom management, along with benefits for staff.

Augmented reality experiences can have spiritual and emotional impacts on terminally ill patients, as well as help alleviate anxiety, isolation. It can also help manage pain and other symptoms, according to Allison Ostashen, senior clinical learning and development specialist at AccentCare.

“We’ve seen this AR program induce positive emotions for patients,” Ostashen told Hospice News. “We’ve seen an effect not only on their spiritual and emotional needs, but also an impact on their physical symptoms. It’s another added intervention of how we can best support patients and take care of them holistically.”

Integrating technology into care delivery has also expanded patient interaction opportunities for employees that normally don’t have a bedside role, Ostashen said. Back-office and interdisciplinary staff are involved in the decision-making process around the components of the augmented reality experiences, she explained.

“An interesting part of developing these programs was creating opportunities for employees with roles that weren’t as forward-facing with patients to have a direct impact on care,” Ostashen said. “Our IT department, for instance, is a huge piece of the brainstorming process. Other interdisciplinary staff have input on the proponents of it also. It’s really assessing our patients’ needs and goals and making sure the AR programs are appropriate for them, inclusive and adapt to the changes in technology as they occur.”

AccentCare launched the AR program in 2021 across its Houston market, an initiative roughly five years in the making, according to Ostashen. The hospice and home health provider offers care in 31 states.

Patients who have utilized the AR services are assessed for symptoms such as blood pressure, shortness of breath, anxiety, nausea and pain at both the beginning and conclusion of their experiences.

The programs offer patients unique travel experiences at the end of life, such as a tour of a Hawaiian island or a city in Italy, Ostashen said. Other virtual reality experiences include whitewater rafting, helicopter rides, guided meditation and many other activities, depending on patient preference and physical abilities.

“We recognized a gap with patients who may not experience their last wishes or bucket list items because of their terminal illness and limited mobility,” Ostashen said. “We wanted to find a way to help bridge that gap and connect the dots, and AR was a great opportunity to dive into.”

Careful consideration of operational costs, staff training and ongoing technology investments is essential to ensure a sustainable AR program, she added. The upfront financial pieces can be heavy lift when it comes to providing virtual reality headsets to patients and tablets for family members to take part in the experience, as well as having equipment to sanitize the devices.

Providing interdisciplinary staff with training on operating the programs is an important aspect as well, Ostashen indicated. But so, too, is the ability to adequately assess whether an augmented reality program is appropriate for a patient and ensure sufficient documentation in their electronic medical record.

“Every hospice will have its own policy that guides this decision, but the biggest caveat is that the patient has to be alert, physically oriented and able to make their own decisions to have informed consent,” Ostashen said. “There is research that shows AR programs may be contraindicated for patients with seizures and have adverse reactions for some other terminal diagnoses.”

How Augmented Reality Helped AccentCare Improve Patient, Staff Satisfaction – Hospice News