Virtual reality comes to Hennepin
Virtual reality has been a new buzz phrase the past few years and has started to be seen within healthcare.
Virtual reality technology has provided a new option for rehabilitation within occupational therapy and is an exciting modality for treating cognition, coordination, oculomotor skills, reaction time, eye hand coordination, peripheral awareness, depth perception, and visual memory. Occupational therapy (OT) focuses on life skills and utilizes a variety of treatment interventions to achieve functional goals.
A virtual reality headset is a tool that can address multiple areas of deficit simultaneously and encourages participation allowing for an immersive experience. Our goal is to make therapy more interactive and enjoyable for patients to better achieve their functional goals within the real world. This virtual reality platform gives our patients the opportunity to engage in a simulated environment that often will require movement of their body, eyes, and thinking skills.
Not only does the Oculus VR system provide endless opportunities for utilization in rehabilitation, but the use of a VR headset can also be fine-tuned to the individual patient’s rehabilitation needs. Within the system, music is adjustable depending on the level of simulation warranted, visual input including brightness, contrast, and visual stimuli can be altered to lessen or strengthen stimulation for the patient, and different games can be set to different levels of challenge. Whether it is cutting flying fruit in the air or navigating a new environment that requires reaching out to pick up items, this level of customization helps us to further support a patient-focused approach to therapy and allows people to be immersed in a new setting outside of the typical clinic context.
With how much technology is becoming integrated into our daily lives, it is important to have this reflected in our treatment and therapy approaches. This approach aligns treatments with real-world skills and offers a fun way to make functional improvements.
Knowledge about interventions and new technology helps you to stay informed and in control of your own care. If you are currently working with an outpatient occupational therapist or believe you may benefit from an assessment, please speak with your primary care physician about a referral.
Nicole St. John, MS, OTR/L is an occupational therapist who practices in the Clinic & Specialty Center. She has worked with a diverse range of diagnoses and specializes in the treatment of neurological dysfunction and visual deficits associated with mild to moderate brain injuries.
Courtney Mitchell, MS, OTR/L is an occupational therapist who practices in the Clinic & Specialty Center. She specializes in the treatment of patients with neurological vision deficits following a brain injury. Courtney also has experience working with patients recovering from a stroke, orthopedic injuries, complex medical issues, spinal cord injuries, multiple traumas, and other issues.