New U.S. clinics use telehealth to bring VR treatments to the patient’s home

[mHealthIntelligence reports on a new effort to expand the use of virtual reality and presence to medical treatment at home. For more information see coverage in VRWorldTech Magazine: Issue 2, XRHealth videos on YouTube, and a related second mHealthIntelligence story. –Matthew]

[Image: Graphic screenshot from XRHealth – Smarter Tools for Smarter Recoveries video via YouTube.]

New Clinics Use Telehealth to Bring VR Treatments to the Patient’s Home

This March, payers and care providers in eight states and the District of Columbia will be able to prescribe VR therapy through a telehealth clinic, giving patients the chance to receive treatment at home.

By Eric Wicklund
February 20, 2020

Healthcare providers and payers in eight states and the District of Columbia will soon be able to prescribe VR therapy through a telehealth clinic, giving patients an opportunity to use the digital health technology at home for remote patient care.

XRHealth, an Israeli company offering virtual reality treatments with an office in Massachusetts, will launch the line of VR clinics in March. The clinics aren’t actual brick-and-mortar locations, but online platforms where patients can receive personalized VR therapy under the guidance of “VR telehealth clinicians” employed by XRHealth.

Company CEO Eran Orr says the clinics represent a new effort by XRHealth to collaborate with care providers and payers who see the value in VR therapy, which has been used to help patients with a variety of concerns including pain management, behavioral health issues like stress and anxiety, cognitive function issues related to traumatic brain injury and stroke, and neurological disorders and neck, shoulder and spinal cord injuries.

“We are bringing something new to the table (that care providers) haven’t seen before,” he says.

Up until recently, VR, AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality) treatments have been used in health systems like Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai and primarily focused on inpatient settings. But with the commercial availability of VR glasses and gaming platforms marketed by Samsung, Dell, Oculus and HTC, providers are beginning to look beyond the hospital setting to remote patient monitoring.

Last December, XRHealth unveiled the connected health platform that underpins its new VR clinics.

“With the roll out of 5G throughout the globe, the new technology implications for the telehealth industry are enormous,” Orr said in a press release as the company unveiled its service at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon conference in Hawaii. “Patients will be able to use high bandwidth technology like virtual reality or augmented reality anywhere they are located – whether in a rural or urban area. Healthcare will become much more affordable and accessible to anyone while innovation will be endless.”

And in January, the University of California at San Francisco announced a partnership with AppliedVR – one of XRHealth’s chief competitors in the AR/VR healthcare space – to launch a business accelerator aimed at expanding the digital therapeutic platform to address issues of access to care for underserved populations.

“The unique ability of virtual reality to create an immersive and interactive environment has the potential to be a cost-effective strategy to deliver pain management for diverse patients, in the time and place of their choosing,” Urmimala Sarkar, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine at UCSF and co-founder of the university’s S.O.L.V.E. Health Tech program, said in a press release.

Now come the clinics, which give payers and healthcare providers – from large health systems to small and solo practices – the leeway to prescribe VR treatment at home and use RPM platforms to monitor their patients’ progress.

According to Orr, payers and providers can recommend that a patient buy a VR headset (a rental option is in the works) and download a prescribed mHealth app. Once the app is installed, the patient schedules a video call with an XRHealth clinician, who teaches the patient how to use the headset and then guides the patient through that and subsequent treatments, adjusting the treatment based on feedback from the platform. Detailed reports are sent back to the patient’s primary care provider each week.

Beginning in March, the clinic will be available to residents of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, California, Delaware, New York, North Carolina and Washington DC, and officials hope to be able to expand to every state by the end of 2020. In addition, the treatments are covered by Medicare and many large health plans.

“The payers have been the first ones to jump in,” Orr says. “They realize the potential.”

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