June 19, 2019 – Oxford VR has announced the launch of its treatment for common mental health conditions through a partnership with AXA HK and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). The three companies first announced their partnership for this initiative back in May. The initiative called ‘Yes I Can’, will offer treatment using virtual reality technology. It will be free to the public and to AXA’s corporate customers as part of their employee benefits services to drive better mental health outcomes in Asia.
Barnaby Perks, CEO at Oxford VR said “This is a solution whose time has come, and we are very excited to collaborate with AXA Hong Kong and CUHK to launch our VR treatment program. Technology holds the key to making high-quality mental health care more patient-centered and accessible. This strategic partnership with AXA HK and The Chinese University of Hong Kong exemplifies our global leadership role in creating groundbreaking, clinically-validated, VR-enabled mental health solutions which have the capacity to bring unprecedented change to healthcare outcomes in the region.”
The program’s focus will be on people struggling with stress, worry and low mood. According to Oxford VR, too much stress can lead to a reduction in mood and increased worry, which over time, can turn into anxiety and depression. This can then lead to withdrawal and avoidance of social situations, which in turn can begin a cycle of lower mood and greater anxiety.
Oxford VR stated that its approach is aimed at breaking and reversing this cycle by using VR to enable users to challenge intrusive thoughts through positive experiences from social tasks guided by a virtual avatar coach in various virtual environments. Users are gradually and systematically exposed to simulations of everyday environments such as a café, bus, street, doctor’s waiting room and convenience store, where they are guided through a series of tasks that can trigger anxiety. Because users know that these simulations are not real, they have the confidence to try things that they would normally avoid, enabling them to challenge and overcome their anxiety.
Gordon Watson, Chief Executive Officer of AXA Asia said “‘Yes I Can’ is about changing the status quo by offering a highly innovative and high-quality mental health solution free to members of the public in need and to our corporate customers as part of their employee benefits services free access. We aim to change lives in Asia, with Hong Kong pioneering this initiative in breaking new ground.”
Professor Rocky S. Tuan, Vice-Chancellor and President at CUHK, commented: “CUHK is committed to translating our excellent academic research to address global challenges and benefit humanity. Applying automation and VR technology to treatment can increase the accessibility of mental health services in a format that the public may find less stigmatizing and much easier to embrace. By building up an evidence base of VR therapeutic experience in the Chinese context, we hope to expand the pioneering mental health services delivery modes in Hong Kong and Greater China.”
The program under Yes I Can does not require a highly trained psychiatrist or mental health professional to operate the service, as the delivery of treatment is already built into the program, which provides participants with six to eight 30-minute VR sessions over a period of 3 to 6 weeks. It is intended for use by adults who are 18 and older, and the localized version will be offered in both English and Cantonese. The partnership under AXA Hong Kong, CUHK and Oxford VR also includes a clinical research study which involves the recruitment of more than 250 members of the public as participants.
Image/video credit: Oxford VR/AXA Hong Kong/CUHK/Vimeo