Rosalba Hernandez Named Recipient of Campus Research Support Award

Rosalba Hernandez is the recipient of a Research Support Award by the Campus Research Board for her project, “Virtual Reality to Improve Emotional Well-being in Hemodialysis Patients: Initial Safety Testing and Proof-of-Concept.”

Project Abstract

Each year ~100,000 people in the U.S. are placed on hemodialysis to receive life sustaining treatment. Hemodialysis (HD) is a challenging procedure that produces major distress with 30% of patients experiencing elevated symptoms of depression. In turn, comorbid depression is associated with adverse kidney disease outcomes, greater risk of hospitalization, and decreased survival rates. Current interventions to treat depression in HD patients are resource intensive, infrequently administered, and involve delivery of psychotherapy by highly-trained clinicians via multiple face-to-face communications. There remains a critical scientific gap, however, as the far-reaching power of technology is yet to be mined in creating new, easily disseminatable, and more efficient strategies to improve emotional well-being profiles of HD patients in the U.S. and across the world. Our objective in this study is to conduct initial testing of the safety and utility of a virtual reality (VR) platform as a delivery portal for our psychotherapeutic curriculum in HD patients. In this proof-of-concept study, 12-21 patients will be recruited from the Champaign-Urbana Dialysis Center and VR sessions will be delivered chairside while patients attend regularly scheduled maintenance HD treatment. This technology-based strategy is unlikely to be pursued in this at-risk population in the absence of such evidence.