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The company creates digital therapeutics for behavioral health using virtual reality
Steven Loeb and Bambi Francisco Roizen speak with Aaron Gani, founder and CEO of BehaVR, a company that creates digital therapeutics for behavioral health using Virtual Reality.
Our overall goal is to understand how technology is radically changing healthcare: the way we screentreat and measure progress and outcomes. How we’re empowering the consumer. Whether we’re creating productivity that drives economic costs down? And how tech advancements change the role of the doctor.
Highlights from the interview:
- Gani spent most of his career in financial services before transitioning into the healthcare industry, becoming Chief Technology Officer at Humana. One reason he founded BehaVR is he had seen the impact of anxiety and depression and pain and substance use disorders in his immediate and extended family. He also saw that there is a cluster of conditions that we focus on around stress, anxiety, depression, pain, opioids, substances, etc. that are highly comorbid with a whole range of chronic conditions. That was something Humana was increasingly focused on, so Gani decided to create digital interventions to scale up solutions and therapeutics in that space.
- The mission BehaRV is to look, understand, and intervene in a way that's scalable with digital therapeutics to improve mental and behavioral health, with the extended goal of doing that in a way that drives overall health, because that is where you can touch the greatest number of patients or members. Gani believes the future of how we address mental health care is through alignments where the interests of providers, payers, and patient are all lined up.
- While VR in healthcare has not yet been widely adopted, it's actually not that new. When BehaVR was founded in 2016, there was already 15 years of evidence of research showing the utility, efficacy, safety of VR interventions in mental and physical health. What had been lacking was consumer grade VR equipment and experiences that would allow it to scale up, making it economically viable, and convenient. That changed when Facebook acquired Oculus, unlocking a surge of venture capital into the space, leading a number of companies to get on board, including Samsung, HP, and HTC.
- BehaVR takes therapeutic techniques that are evidence-based, proven and studied in the analog world and the real world, and translates them into multi sensory VR based experiences that are progressive and multisession, all controlled by its cloud platform, with visibility and oversight from clinicians. A doctor or a psychologist can enroll a patient in a program, see how they’re progressing and make changes.
- The platform is multi-sensory stimulation, so it replaces the visual and auditory input streams. Patients can be calmed by being put into soothing nature environments or experiences, or they can be put into an exposure therapy scene which is intended to arouse and challenge them. By putting them into a simulation with some intention, the company is activating these neural processes that are useful for working through these well understood therapeutic techniques.
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