UCHealth launches its first mobile AR experience for patients

Once inside UCHealth’s free app, patients can access the augmented reality experience and choose a dog to “play” with while waiting for an appointment or at home. 


The use of virtual reality for distraction therapy and joy is not new for UCHealth, but blending the digital and physical worlds with AR creates a new level of immersive user experience for patients, caregivers and others.

Users of the UCHealth mobile app can name the dog, offer treats, throw a ball or ask the dog to follow simple commands. 

Since going live, nearly 9,000 people have clicked on the new AR feature, according to the Aurora, Colorado-based health system.

“We are excited to be among the first healthcare providers to create an AR experience for our patients,” Nicole Caputo, UCHealth’s senior director of experience and innovation, said in the announcement.

“The first experience was simply intended to put a smile on peoples’ faces, as interacting with animals has been shown to lower blood pressure and decrease stress,” she said.

UCHealth says it will be introducing more experiences in the coming months. 

By keeping AR functionality integrated within the native UCHealth app, patients and caregivers can access messaging and other features without having to toggle to another application. 

The healthcare provider says it hopes to create more experiences that will not only improve mood and decrease stress and anxiety but also help users learn about medical conditions through AR-based interactions with other UCHealth patients.

UCHealth partnered with August Allen, a Denver-based marketing agency, to lead the creative strategy for the AR experience.


In August, Caputo told Healthcare IT News that UCHealth plans to keep building AR experiences, in both iOS and Android, that educate patients and improve overall connectivity with their health. 

“The technology has come a long way in the past few years,” she said. 

Virtual reality and AR experiences that are built on the foundations of empirically supported therapies may provide an ideal companion to some in-person mental health therapies, according to Risa Weisberg, chief clinical officer at mental health technology vendor BehaVR.

“These experiences, because they are fully immersive and processed as though they are actually happening to you, have promise to potentially show clinical effectiveness that may be more comparable to that of some in-person therapy, but with the flexibility of being utilized without a clinician present,” Weisberg explained.

Caputo said prior uses of AR were mobile web-based and driven by print advertising or QR codes.

But, “actually being able to see something in your environment, to bring things to life within your environment, we’re really excited,” she said.


“We are thrilled to partner with UCHealth to create augmented reality experiences centered on health and wellness and look forward to developing future experiences for patients,” said Justin Hayes, August Allen’s creative director.

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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