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New Zealand Virtual Reality Technology To Help Treat Medical Anxiety In UK Autistic Community

Published: Wed 10 Apr 2024 10:18 AM
A New Zealand Virtual Reality (VR) provider is set to help autistic people in the UK who struggle with anxiety over hospital visits.
Christchurch startup oVRcome has landed a major international contract with one of the largest National Health Service (NHS) Trusts in England which will see its VR technology used in a trial in the County of Essex.
The technology will allow autistic people to access virtual hospital environments and social stories (scripted videos which assist autistic people to become familiar with various settings), aiming to improve appointment attendance and success among autistic people in the UK.
“Our goal is to make exposure to environments easier and less stressful, and we can achieve that through Virtual Reality,” said oVRcome CEO Adam Hutchinson.
“Users put on a headset and our VR simulates their local hospital environments and procedures, allowing individuals to experience hospitals in the virtual world, so it’s not so scary in real life.”
Users are offered an ‘onboarding’ session where they are shown how to use the headsets and then lent them to take away for a set trial period so they can use them in the comfort of their own homes.
The pilot, which has been co-designed with members of the autistic community, will feature up to a hundred participants and is set to launch with the NHS in August. The contract comes off the back of a small trial held in the UK with the same NHS Trust in 2023, which displayed promising results.
Hutchinson says the exposure therapy creates a safe, immersive experience for users, allowing them to familiarise themselves with medical settings and reduce associated anxiety.
“This exposure therapy is a big step forward in using technology to enhance health care experiences for vulnerable populations. We’re really pleased to be partnering with the NHS on this important work which will make life easier for autistic people.
“While currently in the trial stage there is potential for broader implementation with the NHS so we’re looking forward to seeing positive results.”
The technology is accessed through a smartphone and headset, allowing users to receive treatment in their own homes.
Claire Turner, Learning Disability, Autism and Dementia Service Lead for Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said, “The opportunity to design and develop our programme with users, for users, means that we can use this technology meaningfully and to its maximum impact.”
oVRcome is the brainchild of award-winning Christchurch technology entrepreneur Adam Hutchinson, the man behind the NZ Fishing Rules app and CamperMate. It was launched in 2021 and is used in 35 countries, offering clinically proven virtual reality exposure therapy which helps users overcome phobias (flying, needles, spiders and more), social anxiety and panic disorder.
Research has shown that 80 percent of people with an anxiety disorder like a phobia or social anxiety get no treatment and Hutchinson says oVRcome is working to change that.
"Our goal with oVRcome is to make treatment for anxiety disorders easy and accessible for anyone who needs it, anywhere in the world."
The technology has been rigorously tested and is evidence-based, with an Otago University clinical trial demonstrating a remarkable 75% reduction in phobia symptoms after six weeks of using the oVRcome app.About oVRcome
oVRcome is a virtual reality provider, offering clinically proven virtual reality exposure therapy which helps users overcome phobias, social anxiety, panic disorder and more.
The virtual reality is accessed via an app and headset, allowing users to receive treatment in their own homes.
The technology has been rigorously tested and is evidence-based, with an Otago University clinical trial demonstrating a remarkable 75% reduction in phobia symptoms after six weeks of using the oVRcome app.
oVRcome was founded in Christchurch in 2021 by award winning technology entrepreneur Adam Hutchinson, who also created the NZ Fishing Rules app and CamperMate. It is currently used in 35 countries.
Learn more about oVRcome here: https://www.ovrcome.io/

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