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15 January 2019

Vithas develops a unique multi-sensory virtual reality system for the rehabilitation of people with altered states of consciousness

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• The Neurorehabilitation Department has the 1st unit of that kind in Spain focused on patients with mind alterations
• People with altered states of consciousness pose a challenge for healthcare due to both a high degree of complexity of their condition and prolonged level of dependence
• The Department has an open line of research whose objective is to understand better the neural changes that occur from the state of coma to recovery of the consciousness

The Neurorehabilitation Department at Vithas Nisa Hospital presented in May a multi-sensory stimulation system supported by Information Technologies and supported by virtual reality techniques for the rehabilitation of people with altered states of mind.

Amalia Dieguez attended the presentation ceremony as Director of the Ateneu Cerebral Damage Foundation in Castellón. “Most seriously affected patients are those with the greatest health and social needs, so any initiative aimed at improving their quality of life is good news for our organisation,” she said.  “We believe we need to improve the diagnosis, treatment and continuity of healthcare between the health and social sectors, to meet the needs of patients and families suffering from severe disabilities,” Dieguez added.

The system, unique in the world for the rehabilitation of altered states of mind, allows stimulating the damaged brain structures through immersive exposure to personal experiences according to the patients' likings and preferences.

The system has been developed jointly between the Neurorehabilitation Department and Neurorehabilitation & Brain Research Group at the Polytechnic University of Valencia and is capable of reproducing customised audio-visual material (sounds, images, videos, etc.) through different technical options. The system is designed to reproduce its contents through virtual reality glasses, which allows recreating images and videos in a much more immersive way. In this sense, as commented by Dr Colomer, medical director of this well-known Neurorehabilitation Department, “the ability to project 360º videos through virtual reality glasses greatly increases the feeling of being physically present in such environment and consequently increases the impact that such already lived experience has on patients’ brain.” Furthermore, thanks to the ability to customise the system, we can generate individualised environments that are known to the patient or those they find motivating, always following the preferences, likings or any other indications suggested by their relatives.

In addition to the different modes of visual and auditory stimulation, the system has sensory stimulation systems (Woojer strap) consisting of various sensors placed around the torso of the user to allow him to “feel”, the stimuli through vibrations. This haptic feedback significantly increases immersion and interaction with this virtual world, enhancing its possible therapeutic effect by enriching the experience already lived with sensory stimuli. In short, the versatility of the components of the system allows that, no matter how low the level of consciousness of the person is, it does not stand as an obstacle for the patient to benefit from this novel therapy.

According to Dr Enrique Noe, research director of the Neurorehabilitation Department at Vithas Nisa Hospital, to manage and store all the sensitive multimedia content to be shown to the patient, an exclusive and fully configurable application has been developed that allows easy management of the entire information collected from each patient. One of the most significant advantages for the therapist is that with just a few clicks they can quickly choose: the type of stimulation, the specific content to display, randomize the order of the information presented, select the display device, configure the number of repetitions, the duration of each repetition, the rest time between repetitions and, in the case of images, the duration of each of them.

The fact of having a pointer system and especially in such exclusive way, along with the rest of the elements that make up the equipment, makes possible an advanced, personalised and immersive multi-sensory stimulation for each patient at the Altered States of Consciousness Unit.

For almost 20 years, according to Joan Ferri, Director of the Department, we have been specialists in the assessment and treatment of patients in vegetative/wake syndrome without response or those with minimal state of consciousness. Besides, “we have an open line of research whose objective is to understand better the neural changes that occur from the state of coma to recovery of consciousness, as well as the most effective therapeutic interventions.” This system undoubtedly represents a useful tool within the extensive therapeutic array currently available to the Unit of the Altered States of Consciousness at the Neurorehabilitation Department at Vithas Nisa Hospital, the first of these characteristics in Spain.

Prevalence in Spain

In Spain, there are no data on the prevalence or incidence of patients with altered states of consciousness after a brain injury. However, if we look at studies carried out in our neighbouring countries, the figure could be around one to four cases per 100,000 inhabitants, with traffic accidents and cerebral vascular lesions being the most frequent causes. Despite this high prevalence, patients with altered states of mind still pose a challenge for healthcare due to both a high degree of complexity of their condition and prolonged level of dependence.

The Vithas Promise: High quality accredited healthcare, personalised service and long-term commitment

Vithas is the first healthcare operator with 100 por ciento Spanish capital. Its strategic commitment is defined by supporting the healthcare with the standards of quality accreditation of the highest international prestige, the Joint Commission International. Only 14 prestigious hospitals in Spain have such accreditation and recognition, and two of them are part of Vithas, in Madrid and Malaga. Each year Vithas cares for more than 5.000.000 patients in its 19 hospitals and 29 medical centres called Vithas Salud. The 48 centres are distributed throughout the country and include hospitals in Alicante, Almeria, Benalmadena, Castellon, Granada, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Lleida, Madrid, Malaga, Sevilla, Tenerife, Vigo, Valencia and Vitoria- Gasteiz. The 29 Vithas Salud centres are located in Alicante, Almuñecar, Elche, El Ejido, Fuengirola, Granada, La Estrada, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Lleida, Madrid, Malaga, Marin, Nerja, Pontevedra, Rincon de la Victoria, Sanxenxo, Sevilla, Torre del Mar, Torremolinos, Vilagarcia, and Vitoria-Gasteiz. Vithas also counts upon more than 300 extraction points spread throughout Spain thanks to its network of Vithas Lab laboratories. Its own central purchasing office, PlazaSalud24, as a leader in the sector, provides service to 39 hospitals, 35 medical centres and 20 dental clinics.

Vithas has a strategic agreement with a hospital leader in the Balearic Islands, the Juaneda Healthcare Network, which has 5 hospitals and a wide network of medical centres throughout the region.

Vithas' commitment to accredited quality healthcare and personalised service goes hand in hand with the firm support and long-term vision of Vithas' shareholders: Goodgrower, who control 80 por ciento of the capital, and the' La Caixa' group, with the remaining 20 por ciento. With a growth model based on geographical diversification and sustainability, Vithas plans to continue consolidating its national presence both by opening new centres and through acquisitions and strategic agreements.