I’ve written about telehealth for more than a decade. I’m familiar with VR and most of its cousins as well. And most everyone knows what a clinic is. But until today, I’d never heard of a vendor mashing up telehealth and VR and calling it a clinic.
A few months ago, I wrote up a study concluding that the healthcare virtual reality market would hit $30 billion within six years. This sounded like a very large number to attach to such a nascent market, but perhaps I was wrong.
One precursor of this growth streak comes from a company known as XRHealth, which says that it has created a virtual reality telehealth clinic whose services it says are covered by Medicare and most major insurance providers. It also reports being certified in eight states along with the District of Columbia. The clinic, which will open for business on March first, is currently accepting consumer applications to be treated by clinicians using the platform.
XRHealth says that it’s using virtual reality to make treatment a “fun activity,” something most of us would agree isn’t characteristic of visiting a brick-and-mortar medical office. The new clinic uses unspecified “therapeutic” software — most likely proprietary software from what I see here — and combines it with VR technology to deliver care.
To begin treatment, XRHealth VR telehealth clinicians will conduct an initial patient assessment, ship patients who don’t have one a VR headset and train them on how to use the technology. As patients use the vendor’s VR technology for treatment, clinical staffers can control the VR unit remotely and adjust the settings in real-time remotely. The clinicians can see exactly what the patient is viewing.
What seems particularly neat to me is that after the patient is trained and begins to use the headset on their own, the device stored and analyzes data from the therapy in real time. Physicians can then use this data to monitor the patient. The system also generates a report once a week which will be dispatched to the payer or provider that referred the patient.
Conditions treated by the VR telehealth clinic include traumatic brain injury and stroke; stress, anxiety and memory decline; chronic pain, acute pain, patient distraction and pain syndromes; hot flashes and night sweats; neck, shoulder and spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders.
Speaking as a tech and healthcare consumer, I am a bit skeptical that this clinic can overcome the technical and bandwidth issues associated with interactive VR. The consumer VR sites I’ve accessed are slow and balky, though this might be because I’m currently working with a rather underpowered laptop as my primary computing device.
On the other hand, if XRHealth is providing both the technology and the services, it can presumably optimize the hardware to function well in its VR telehealth clinic setting, which is a pretty cool thing. It’s also great that it’s made a point of collecting, analyzing and sharing treatment data in (what it says is) a HIPAA-compliant manner.
By the way, though the model may not be mature yet, it speaks to the increased faith health insurers have in telehealth generally that several are prepared to pay for this relatively new platform. It’s also noteworthy that XRHealth is working with hospitals, providers and rehab centers.
I for one am eager to tour the clinic and see what it feels like to “visit.”