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Recently, ahead of the Colorado Avalanche season opener at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital, one lucky patient got to attend the Colorado Avalanche victory parade and compare his experience with that of Avalanche captain, Gabe Landeskog. Robb Baker is receiving chemotherapy at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital and was the first patient to experience the newest video added to UCHealth’s five-year-old virtual reality program for patients.
“For people like me who are stuck in here being able to attend the victory parade is pretty cool,” said Baker, 35, who’s battling advanced-stage colon cancer. “You’re worried about so many things and to have a little escape is awesome.”
Baker and Landeskog sat side by side, wearing VR headsets, and pointed things out to each other as they “participated” in the parade – Landeskog reliving his June experience and Baker experiencing it for the first time.
Nicole Caputo, senior director of experience and innovation at UCHealth, launched the program as the ultimate distraction therapy for patients facing long or painful treatments.
“We are able to use VR to transport patients to a place that brings them joy,” said Caputo. “In addition to the extensive video library, we listened to our patients who requested we create unique Colorado experiences.”
The Avalanche victory parade is the latest addition to the video library, which also includes an experience with the Denver Broncos, the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks, and a ride through the Rocky Mountains with professional cyclists. This is the first time an NHL championship parade is being used to benefit local hospital patients and UCHealth is launching the content in advance of the Avalanche raising their championship banner tomorrow (Oct. 12) in their season-opening game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Since the program launched in 2017, UCHealth has provided over 17,000 experiences for patients across the 12-hospital system.
“This is what the future of patient experience is all about,” said Kyle Rand, chief executive officer at Rendever, the provider of UCHealth’s VR platform. “The journey through health care is often a long and arduous one, filled with anxiety and loneliness. The team at UCHealth is leading the charge on reimagining this journey into something truly extraordinary.”
UCHealth currently has more than 60 pairs of VR headsets and offers them to patients who are receiving long infusion treatments, like chemotherapy, patients whose illnesses force them to be isolated from loved ones, and patients who are facing painful procedures, such as dressing changes for burn patients.
“The long-term goal is to offer VR experiences to all UCHealth patients who can benefit from this technology, regardless of the type of treatment they are receiving,” said Caputo. “We had great success during the pandemic using VR at our vaccine clinics, helping patients who suffer from needle phobia.”
While not all patients will be able to sit next to Landeskog and compare notes, they too can experience what it feels like to ride on top of a fire truck through the streets of Denver, celebrating the 2022 Avalanche victory.
After the experience was over, Baker, who is a huge Avalanche fan, said that he felt like a kid who had been granted a wish. “After being diagnosed and starting treatments earlier this year, I don’t remember much about the end of the Avs season or the victory parade, but I will always remember this.”
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