A pioneering way to bring a programme that helps improve the well-being of people who have chronic or ongoing breathing problems has been trialled in a south Cumbrian GP Practice and is now being rolled out further.
The use of virtual reality to help with the exercise programme for patients has been introduced as part of the Better Care Together programme and has already been well-received amongst the patients who have used it.
As well as being able to take part in breathing exercises from the comfort of their own homes, helping to avoid visits to hospital or community facilities, the trailblazing use of new technology also allows health professionals to securely monitor the exercise programme people are using, ensuring that they can be tailored and tweaked as people take part.
Dr Muhammad Farhan Amin of the Burnett Edgar Medical Centre on Walney Island in Barrow-in-Furness has introduced the technology as a way of solving two problems:
Firstly many people who need to be on this programme are not able to access it, there is a national shortage of the physiotherapy staff needed to put the sessions on.
Secondly – if people do some breathing exercises in their own homes – it is impossible for health professionals to monitor them.
Dr Amin explains “Barrow-in-Furness has many people with chronic lung conditions and the best treatment is to take part in a pulmonary rehabilitation programme. Usually this involves going to the hospital outpatient department, but using the latest technology we just need a mobile phone and a virtual reality headset; and the person is transported to a ‘beach’ where they can interact in an exercise class, get educational help, receive breathing strategies and get nutritional advice.
Because the phone is linked to the internet – the specially-developed application can both tailor the breathing exercises for each person and also send the breathing exercise record back to the health professional who is supporting the person. It’s exciting – the next stages are to train other health professionals in the area – and continue to develop this technology.We want to make the exercise classes really interactive so that people taking part in them can communicate with other patients who are also taking part in the breathing exercises in their own homes – it could become a virtual reality breathing exercise club!.”
PRinVR is essentially augmenting system’s ability to deliver community services at scale. In order to do it safely and effectively there needs to be a formasl process in place:
Step One: Patients referred for pulmonary rehab are assessed
Step Two: Following brief assessment, patients offered a choice of either wait for traditional PR or enrol in PRinVR.
Step Three: Once patient expresses his / her wishes to enrol in PRinVR, a further assessment is completed for data collection and research purposes.
Step Four: Patients are visited, given equipment and taken them through the process.
Step Five: Patient then start their PRinVR programme and continue at home, they have a contact number should they need support or have any questions.