Virtual Reality

With all of the current changes and uncertainty occurring in the healthcare field these past few weeks I have been feeling like it is easy to get bogged down with disheartening and confusing news. With an estimated 14 million people losing healthcare coverage by 2018 and the projected number increasing to 24 million by 2026 according to the Congressional Budget Office, issues relating federal funding and Medicaid are looking somewhat bleak. In light of this, I wanted to focus this week on the positive changes that we are seeing in the convergence of technology and health.

At Junto Health we are constantly tracking and exposed to the latest healthcare start-ups on the market. As I have watched the tech-push model of innovation attempt to develop solutions in a silo and then throw them out in the market to see what sticks, I have also seen some companies rise above this old model and make inroads to actual change. In particular, over the last year I have seen virtual reality programs proving to be the most promising potential technologies for healthcare applications.

I believe that virtual reality is one of the most exciting innovations out there for healthcare since it has been seen that costs are rapidly decreasing while the quality of these programs has continued to go up. In certain applications of mental health, behavioural health, and in medical training, virtual reality experiences have been shown to be incredibly effective. The public health field has taught us that social determinants are a main driving force of most health outcomes. It is therefore incredibly exciting to see that some of these factors can be alleviated with clinically designed virtual reality modules. For example, immersive brain training games have shown to be effective for children with ADHD and virtual reality communities have the potential to help decrease social isolation of the sick and elderly.

Many times when patients leave hospitals they are left on their own to continue to navigate a bewildering amount of health decisions daily. Virtual reality provides the opportunity for these patients to be engaged with after they leave the hospital setting. Even though their conditions may not be acute enough to require in-person treatment and resources, this does not necessarily mean that they are ready to face all of the challenges of navigating everyday life and illness on their own. Virtual reality could play a huge role in benefiting those who need more support for chronic disease management, mental health maintenance, and addiction support.

On the business side of things, virtual reality is also promising as it is inherently a platform and thus lends itself nicely to 3rd parties developing their own modules based on their expertise or patient needs. The virtual reality marketplace is therefore incredibly open to co-development projects, which is something we always love to see at Junto. If I were to choose two companies to watch for the work they are currently doing in harnessing virtual reality platforms I would say that they would have to be Psious Health and Rendever Health.

Psious Health (@psious) is an exciting Spanish company that is developing behavioural health modules with comprehensive platforms for providers and patients. Controlled studies have shown that when it comes to treating anxiety disorders virtual reality treatments achieve better results that traditional exposure therapy. What is great about Psious is that they offer the ability for providers to customize virtual reality behavioural treatments for patients by having control over exposure parameters and also provides incredibly accurate biofeedback.

psious Virtual Reality

Rendever Health (@RendeverHealth) is channeling virtual reality platforms to help senior living communities connect their residents to life outside of their facility. Their platform can allow users to revisit locations familiar to them prior to moving into a facility or even develop new memories by letting them virtually visit new locations and experience new events with other residents from their facility. Rendever Health is successfully increasing the stimulation of older adults and improving elderly care.

These companies are examples of what the successful harnessing of the power of virtual reality can look like. I expect that this year we will continue to see more groups develop platforms that allow for the convergence of virtual reality and health. This realm of development has the potential to allow Silicon Valley, with their programming expertise. to make true inroads in increasing the quality and accessibility of health throughout the world. I look forward to continuing to watch this virtual reality trend to see where it leads.