Social VR-Based Support Groups for Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology (AYA) Patients
Adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer face unique challenges.
The cancer diagnosis comes during an inherently vulnerable developmental stage, magnifying the feelings of isolation associated with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Prior studies have highlighted the importance of peer groups during cancer treatment, contributing to resilience and improved psychosocial outcomes.
Support groups help foster connections, but in-person support groups are difficult for patients to participate in due to immunosuppression, prolonged hospitalizations, geographic constraints, and other responsibilities to their families and jobs. Virtual reality (VR) has allowed for the creation of a therapist-curated, computer-generated reality in which to hold support groups for this unique patient population.
Our initial experience with this approach is currently under review and we are actively expanding this model to other patient groups and an insurance reimbursable telehealth model of care.
Puthenpura V, Marks AM. Clinical Application of Digital Technologies in Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Supportive Care. J Adolesc Young Adult Oncol. 2021 Apr;10(2):127-130. doi: 10.1089/jayao.2020.0153. Epub 2020 Dec 9. PMID: 33296259; PMCID: PMC8182471.