The talk of the town: VR
Between Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, and Samsung Gear VR, the hardware for first generation virtual reality is here. And innovators in the healthcare space are starting to explore a range of interesting applications for it. Most prominent at the conference was the work of appliedVR, which partner Cedars-Sinai’s director of Health Services Research Brennan Speigel presented from the main stage.
AppliedVR is using virtual reality to relieve pain and distract patients, whether it’s a video game to distract patients from pain during a procedure, or virtual environments to help bed-ridden patients escape the stress of being in the hospital.
Josh Sackman, president of AppliedVR, presented at a special session on VR technologies. He said that even though games like Super Mario have been shown to have some therapeutic effect when it comes to reducing surgery anxiety, there are many benefits to building a game just for health.
“Why not just any game you can download off the app store? One is the concept of continuous engagement,” he said, explaining that games with a pause in the action can give patients too much time to think about their pain. “Two is usability. If I’m stuck in a hospital bed, I might have an IV on my arm, I might have limited mobility. Healthcare skews older, and people recently under anesthesia might be more prone to motion sickness and nausea. So there’s a lot of really specific design considerations.”
Osso VR and SAS Revinax, two other presenters in the VR session, are building virtual training tools for surgeons that allow them to put in many more hours of simulated training without endangering any patients, or to watch an experienced surgeon perform the surgery from an immersive, first-person viewpoint.
Children’s hospitals team up to face unique challenges
Impact Pediatric is an association of children’s hospitals that has come together the past two years at South by Southwest to participate in a high-profile startup pitch competition. Boston Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati Children’s, Texas Children’s Hospital, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital (part of Stanford), and Seattle Children’s make up the group.
At Health 2.0, representatives from several of those hospitals talked about innovation and why they chose to come together to form Impact.
“Pediatrics can often get overlooked,” Mike Pistone, director of marketing, innovation and commercialization at Cincinnati Children’s, said. “It’s not just a small market but we deal with small patients and they have unique needs. So we thought it was time to come together in a really unprecedented manner to identify the best technologies.”
Because there are relatively few dedicated children’s hospitals and they do have higher standards for many kinds of pilots because of the age of their patients, innovators aren’t always as interested in pitching them, panelists said. In addition, technology that has proven efficacy in adults has to be proven separately with children. The pitch competition created an incentive to design and develop for children’s health.
More pharma voices
More and more big pharma companies are showing up at these digital-focused events to talk about their digital strategy. In addition to regular attendee Boehringer Ingelheim, this year’s pharma roundtable saw presentations from Bayer, BTG, Eli Lilly, and Bristol Myers Squibb.
Lilly’s VP for drug delivery innovation Justin Wright talked about the company’s new approach to innovating drug delivery in its new Boston office. Though he didn’t dive into specifics he did talk about how the company is working with Mad*Pow on design for some wraparound digital offerings.
Elizabeth Turcotte, director of the patient hub at Bristol Myers Squibb, spoke about the company’s Universal Patient Language initiative at UPL.org, which provides a set of online tools for pharma companies to help them improve communication with patients so it is both clear and meets regulatory guidelines.
“We think of patients as subjects in clinical trials,” she said. “And the reality is, the world has really moved on to thinking of them as partners. Even though I think it’s a wonderful development, there is a huge gap that exists today. Nobody’s really teaching us how to play that role.”
The time is right for sleep technology to advance
Sleep – the final frontier, or so it seems in digital health. While everybody needs sleep and plenty want to know more about how to do it the best they can, tools to improve sleep and, in turn, improve health have moved decidedly slower than other digital health innovations like activity trackers. But that’s changing, said a panel of sleep experts and sleep tracking device and app makers at Health 2.0.
“The power of the sleep message has been blunted for years, because we haven’t really had a metric,” said David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. “To the extent that we can measure sleep, we can drive behavior change, and with that, unlock the true power of sleep and its connection to health.” More
Tech companies present methods of chronic disease management
Chronic disease management not only eats up upwards of 85 percent of US healthcare spending, it also accounts for seven out of 10 US deaths per year. So innovation in this sector is critical, but must take many forms, a panel of digital health companies said at Health 2.0.
“We can quote, all day, stats for chronic disease spending, and if we don’t work to reverse this trend, that amount will quadruple by 2023,” said moderator Dr. Bonnie Feldman.
Featuring representatives from Livongo, MyHealthTeams, Health Decision Technology, Wellness Layers and Sensely, the panel discussed the myriad ways they are working to reverse the financial and physical toll of chronic disease management. For some, it’s taking what has proven to be successful in fostering relationships: social media and dating sites. More
Mobile health first aid kit, VR and more digital health tools
What does the next generation health consumer look like? If you ask the folks at Health 2.0 in Santa Clara, it depends on the technology you give them to make healthy choices. In a session at focused on the consumerization and disruption of traditional care models, we heard from several providers, startups and established medical device makers on the new digital health tools they are equipping consumers with. More