What does your business do? And what is unique about your health technology intervention?
AppliedVR is pioneering prescription virtual reality therapeutics (VRx), the next generation of digital therapeutics. As the most comprehensive, extensively researched and utilized VRx pain management platform, AppliedVR designs and delivers VRx therapies that are easy to use, engaging and create lasting neurobehavioral change for patients suffering from pain. The therapies, developed for home use, offer an effective and scalable way to improve the lives of patients who suffer from chronic pain while reducing reliance on opioids and other pharmacological options.
Through evidence-based therapies, incorporating 60 modular therapeutic experiences mapped to acute and chronic pain treatment programs, AppliedVR helps patients learn coping skills to manage their pain while addressing their comorbidities of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. The company’s therapies are designed to be self-administered in the home enabling people to take control of their health conditions.
AppliedVR’s immersive, digital neurobehavioral therapies were designed by Stanford pain scientist Dr. Beth Darnall and other leading pain experts as an 8-week self-administered program based on cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback and mindfulness. The therapies incorporate patent-pending and proprietary biofeedback technology to support patients in learning self-management skills to lower activation levels, guide patients through mindfulness exercises, educate on the biopsychosocial factors of pain, train coping techniques, distract with interactive experiences during acute pain flares, with the aim of significantly improving the quality of life of patients with chronic pain.
AppliedVR is the most extensively researched and widely used pain management platform in the world, having published seven randomized controlled trials with over 25 more at various clinical stages, including two at Cleveland Clinic and Geisinger that are backed by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). Additionally, AppliedVR is the first company to make therapeutic VR widely available, having immersed over 60,000 patients both in the home and in over 200 hospitals around the world.
Now, more than ever, delivering safe and effective VRx to patients that can be self-administered in the home, is paramount to empowering patients to manage their pain, improve their mental health and live their best lives.
How do you help people with the disease of addiction or in response to mental health needs?
AppliedVR helps deliver virtual, in-home care solutions for at-risk populations that have limited access to health-care services through non-pharmacologic acute and chronic pain treatments that can be self-administered in the home.
In a recent RCT study, completed by AppliedVR that has been published in JMIR, patients suffering from chronic pain using AppliedVR's chronic pain prescription virtual reality therapeutic in-home experienced 30-50 percent improvement in key quality of life metrics, including pain, sleep, mood, activity, and stress. The study was one of the largest at-home studies completed to date, demonstrating the value that at-home therapeutic VR can create. A recent study at Cedars-Sinai Health System, published in PLOS, showed a 52 percent reduction in pain versus a control group using AppliedVR’s virtual reality program for pain management among hospitalized patients.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your work?
AppliedVR entered 2020 with strong momentum across its business. We were ramping up our sales to hospitals/clinics, launching key clinical studies at Geisinger, Cleveland Clinic, and the National Cancer Institute, and driving critical partnerships with payers. COVID directly impacted all three key areas. Hospitals essentially closed up to anything non-COVID related; all non-COVID related clinical research was put on hold, and payers (rightfully) put “all hands on deck” to deal with the pandemic. All of these are short term negative impacts on the business.
At the same time, COVID-19 has accelerated several key trends in health care, including home health, digital health, mental health support, and telehealth. The anxiety, isolation, depression, and sleeplessness caused by COVID-19 is palpable. We haven’t even begun to understand the impact of COVID on mental health issues and how it will exacerbate chronic conditions such as chronic pain and substance use disorder (SUD) and opioid use disorder (OUD.) With only one mental health practitioner available for every 50,000 sufferers (a ratio that will only be exacerbated given COVID), the need for scalable digital solutions has never been more important. The FDA’s relaxation of enforcement on claims made by digital health manufacturers focused on psychiatric conditions is an acknowledgment of that.
These industry trends and patient needs fit squarely in line with the work we are doing at AppliedVR. Our work has never been more relevant, and rather than be constrained by COVID, we are finding more interest and demand in what we are doing.
What is the biggest challenge as a result of the pandemic?
The biggest challenge for us, initially, was the indefinite delay to all non-COVID related clinical studies. For example, the National Cancer Institute shut down all clinical studies in Bethesda, even potentially life-saving ones, due to the necessity of protecting immuno-compromised patients. That said, once we fully understood the impact as well as the evolving regulations from FDA, we reimagined our approach to running our clinical and HEOR (health economic outcomes research) trials off-site, leveraging the tools and network of patients and providers that we’ve developed and are actually in a better position than before COVID.
What else would you like the broader community to know?
The impact of COVID on health care has been seismic. In looking for the good in everything, even disaster, we believe that COVID will accelerate key trends (home health, digital health, telehealth) that had been on the cusp of breaking out but lacked the existential threat that could function as a catalyst to drive change. We now have that with COVID, and now that the proverbial genie is out of the bottle, there is no going back. As odd as it sounds, we are excited for the progressive changes that we are seeing in health care by payers, health systems, physicians, and patients, while we are also saddened by the massive disruption and loss that COVID has caused.
Recent Partnership Example
We recently struck an innovative, and evidence-based partnership with the American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) around our follow-on randomized clinical study in chronic pain treatment.