The Baptist Health Rehabilitation Institute recently began implementing an immersive virtual reality system for physical therapy. The REAL® Immersive System uses virtual reality to engage and motivate patients to complete their course of rehabilitation via a fun, virtual environment with therapeutic activities.
Experts say virtual reality can be used to improve range of motion, enhance cognitive skills and induce neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections.
Cleared by the FDA, the Immersive System is for adult patients to use under the supervision of a medical professional. The wireless system includes a virtual reality headset, a set of six sensors and a tablet that allows the clinician to administer and monitor the therapy session. The system can be customized for each patient’s upper body rehabilitation needs and has multiple activities, difficulty settings, and is versatile, meaning it can be used at the patient’s bedside, in a rehabilitation gym or in a mobile location.
In the virtual environment, patients view their body as a virtual image, or avatar, engaged in activities that would not be feasible in the actual world. It mirrors every movement a patient makes in real time, which helps the brain accept the avatar as the patient’s own body. Virtual reality software also often employs popular video game elements such as variability, rewards and progress tracking to maximize patient enjoyment and engagement.
Baptist Health currently offers the REAL® Immersive System in Little Rock, North Little Rock and Conway.