By  DocsMT
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Treating Pain with Virtual Reality: Interview with AppliedVR CEO Matthew Stoudt

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AppliedVR is an exciting company that is using virtual reality to treat pain and anxiety in both inpatient and outpatient settings. The VR applications are designed by a multidisciplinary team for maximum therapeutic effect. Applied VR runs on the Gear VR and has two applications currently, Pain RelieVR and Anxiety RelieVR. Both have been shown in early studies to not only be effective, but in some cases superior to VR alternatives with similar gameplay/setting but lacking the targeted multidisciplinary design.

AppliedVR was kind enough to send us over demos of both of their applications. Pain RelieVR is an interactive game where you are attacked by an onslaught of slightly creepy but cute teddy bears. The bears are dispatched easily by looking at them and pegging them with an auto-launching cannon. The game is simple but the setting and art design is creative and fun. I can definitely see this functioning well as a distraction from painful or frightening stimuli.

After the stress of vaporizing an army of marauding teddy bears I was able to wind down with the Anxiety RelieVR application. In the demo you are transported to a virtual world, surrounded by water, trees, grass and a beautiful sunset view. Once again a relatively simple application but it was nice and soothing, so once again I can see this being effective.

Matthew Stoudt, the CEO of AppliedVR, was kind enough to answer some questions we had about their product and company:

Medgadget: How did the concept for AppliedVR come about?

matt_stoudtMatthew Stoudt: AppliedVR was incubated inside LRW, a global top 25 market research firm. AppliedVR was originally conceived as a way to better understand how people make decisions. Traditional market research asks consumers logical questions and gets logical answers in return. The reality is that people make their decisions based on the non-conscious and emotions. As we started to better understand how VR could help understand decision making, we met with the world’s leading academic VR researchers and recognized the power of VR to change attitudes and behaviors. Once we understood this, we recognized that VR could be used to address some of society’s biggest issues like acute and chronic pain, anxiety, depression, autism, addiction, phobias and more.

 

Medgadget: Infection control is often a big issue for any re-usable devices that come into contact with patients. How are you going about tackling this problem?

MS: Work flow design is just as important as efficacy when it comes to bringing a product to market in health care. Infection control is a key piece of that work flow design. We worked closely with Cedars-Sinai epidemiology group to develop a solution that can work for VR headsets in a health care setting. We have optimized the Samsung Gear to work in this environment.

 

Medgadget: Do you have any new treatment modules coming down the pipeline in addition to the pain and anxiety ones?

MS: Ultimately, we are building out the leading platform to deliver effective, validated therapeutic content. We are already working on some additional modules that include chronic pain, health lifestyle which addresses behavioral change, autism and more.

 

appliedvrMedgadget: In your feasibility study performed at Cedars, 66% of patient’s that were eligible refused to participate, often due to lack of knowledge of or anxiety about the technology. Do you have any strategies for overcoming this adoption barrier?

MS: This was a great learning experience for us. Patients in health care skew older. You can’t just show up the day of the procedure, ask someone to try something and expect a high success rate. You need to educate the patient in advance and help him or her understand what it is and how it can be beneficial. Additionally, you need to make the platform easy to use. We have addressed these issues using training and materials and have incorporated it into our workflow. The great news is that adoption is exceedingly high and regardless of age, once a patient tries it, he or she loves it. Additionally, having variety of content is important as therapeutic content (depending on the issue you are addressing) isn’t a one size fits all.

 

Medgadget: What other areas are you excited about in the medical VR space?

MS: In addition to patient-focused therapeutic VR where we are focused, we think VR has a big role to play in physician training as well as even during surgery, helping doctors to make better decisions as they are performing procedures.

 

Medgadget: What are your thoughts on AR vs. VR?

MS: We think they both have a role in health care. Today VR is big because we can actually bring an existing product to market. AR, and I’m talking wearable AR, will play a big role as well, once the technology becomes more accessible and scalable.

 

Medgadget: Where do you see Applied VR going in the next few years?

MS: We will be the leading platform to deliver therapeutic content to health care providers. We will continue to expand our distribution into the leading hospitals as well as in the largest hospital systems in the US. An AI “Virtualist” will take patients on their own customized therapeutic VR journey, guided in part by feedback from the patients’ own bodies. And ultimate, doctors will be prescribing our solution to help their patients improve their lives.

 

Medgadget: Many of our readers are aspiring or current medtech entrepreneurs and innovators. Any thoughts or advice for those seeking to help patients with technology?

MS: Believe in your ability to create change and find a champion at a leading institution who can help you prove that your solution works.

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