Home5GAT&T and VITAS Healthcare to offer VR, AR for hospice patients

AT&T and VITAS Healthcare to offer VR, AR for hospice patients

VITAS also aims to use AT&T’s 5G technology and Magic Leap headsets to help provide comfort for hospice patients


AT&T and end-of-life care provider VITAS Healthcare have jointly launched a study that intends to explore whether the use of 5G-based virtual reality and augmented reality can help reduce chronic pain and anxiety for certain hospice patients.

AT&T said that the mobile solution with immersive technology “is a good use case for testing the potential for 5G speeds and low latency to help patients and families in need.”

“We’re always looking for opportunities to enhance the patient experience and bring comfort to our patients and their families as they receive end-of-life care,” said Patrick Hale, CIO of VITAS Healthcare. “We not only chose AT&T for its technology expertise, but for its vision to use technology to help improve care. Our goal is to eventually expand VR and AR capabilities to our hospice patients across the country that could benefit from them.”

The study, launched in January 2019 at a nationally recognized cancer center in Southern California, evaluates aspects including patient feedback, VR and AR content effectiveness and technology delivery options.

“As a pioneer of the hospice benefit, VITAS remains committed to improving patient well-being near the end of life through pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments,” said Joseph Shega, senior vice president and chief medical officer of VITAS Healthcare. “VR and AR technologies have the potential to be a new alternative therapy that will hopefully benefit patients by decreasing symptom burden while increasing quality of life. Moreover, the technology could offer a unique opportunity for patients and families to do things virtually that were previously not possible in a physical sense, such as travelling to remote destinations together.”

The first module will focus on the effect of the content toward enhancing a patient’s comfort level through the VR and AR experience, AT&T said. For example, to help calm an anxious patient, they might take a virtual walk through a field along a tranquil stream or a virtual journey to Machu Picchu in Peru.

The second module of the study will focus on making the content mobile, as hospice patients are often cared for in their homes. Large video files will therefore need to be downloaded or streamed remotely. The technology aspect of the study will demonstrate how on-demand downloading and streaming of content might be supported over mobile networks, including 5G.

AT&T said that it will provide the necessary services throughout the study, including the video content and mobility network. Study participants will view content via Magic Leap One Lightwear headsets. Eventually, the headsets will be taken to a field location in one of the AT&T 5G cities. A 5G mobile hotspot will be used to test content download and streaming over 5G, the carrier said.

“Our work with VITAS demonstrates the digital transformation taking place in another important part of the healthcare spectrum. Providers are trying to use technology in unique ways to improve care for their patients,” said Mo Katibeh, CMO for AT&T Business. “The use of immersive technologies, and how they can be used by businesses to fundamentally change the daily lives of their employees and customers, demonstrates the promise of 5G and how it will shape our society in the coming years.”


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