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Singing is known to stimulate areas of the brain responsible for cognitive processing, language, communication, coordination, motor timing, and movement while also positively regulating cortisol, dopamine, and endorphins that can elevate mood and reduce pain. It also offers additional benefits to those with cognitive challenges. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed that active singing was more beneficial in improving cognitive function and life satisfaction than music listening alone.
"Regular singing has also been shown to help reduce anxiety, depression, agitation, and aggression in some participants," Rachel Francine, CEO and co-founder of Musical Health Technologies, the company behind music health platform SingFit, told VatorNews.
"The understanding that music-making can help maintain and improve cognitive health is gaining in popularity. Research has shown that music can help increase brain function and support neuroplasticity. While listening to music is helpful, active music-making has even more neurological, physiological, and social benefit."
Founded in 2017 by Francine and her brother Andy Tubman, a certified Music Therapist, and based on an idea their inventor/opera-singing father had in the mid-1960s, the SingFit platform app provides a proprietary Lyric Coach track which prompts the words of the song to the user right before they need to be sung, no reading or remembering lyrics required, all they have to do is listen and sing.
Now the company will get its product into the hands of more patients thanks to a newly announced partnership with Longevity Health, an Institutional Special Needs Plan (ISNP), a kind of specialized Medicare Advantage health plan that serves people living in skilled nursing facilities.
"We have found that Longevity Healthcare truly walks the walk when it comes to putting their members first and providing the very best care. This may seem like the motto of every healthcare organization but often, even in the best-meaning organizations, you will find a department or two who are not willing to do the hard work of finding new solutions to truly innovate," Francine said.
Like SongFit, Longevity Health Plan also recognized that therapeutic music can be a powerful non-pharmacological health and wellness intervention, she explained. In addition, both companies understand that, with only 8,000 music therapists certified to practice in the United States, getting music as medicine to everyone who can benefit from it is mathematically impossible.
"At Musical Health Technologies, we do not aim to or want to replace music therapists who have a variety of tools and methods they use with a variety of clients. Longevity realized however, that by utilizing technology and music therapy designed programming they could still deliver high quality therapeutic singing to their members, and we are here to support them in that goal," said Francine.
How SingFit works
The SingFit digital health platform supports three solutions which can be utilized by different customer sets.
The first solution, SingFit STUDIO Pro, is a therapeutic music tool for speech therapists, occupational therapists, and other rehab therapists that utilizes evidence-based algorithms using historical and real-time user data to match the appropriate music to an individual’s cognitive status, and preference. It also helps with in-the-moment goals such as increasing cognitive engagement. SingFit STUDIO Pro can be used to directly address mood, quality of life, and cognitive goals for patients with dementia, aphasia, and other cognitive-related disorders.
"Our algorithms are based on music elements associated with cognitive, psychological, and emotional therapeutic benefits across a range of health conditions. Over 30 criteria, for example tempo, are used to create the right playlist to meet the needs and goals of the participant," Francine explained.
A recent SingFit user testing project with those with moderate cognitive decline found that improvement was observed in 80% of sessions targeting cognitive engagement, 87% of sessions targeting relaxation, and 100% of sessions aimed at reducing depression.
The second solution is SingFit STUDIO Caregiver, which allows paid or family caregivers to connect with someone with cognitive decline. Each session uses SingFit’s proprietary playlists which are personalized to each participant’s cognitive level, age, goal, and music preferences. These playlists are available on-demand by clicking ‘Start Session’ and choosing the goal for each session.
The third solution, SingFit PRIME, is utilized primarily in senior living communities, skilled nursing facilities, and adult day cente.
With PRIME, SingFit facilitators attend a two-hour training and each quarter receive 12 certified music therapist designed, pre-made playlists and themed booklets with storylines, movements, trivia, and reminiscence questions. Each playlist theme has a difficulty rating, meaning the SingFit experience can be tailored to the functionality levels of a particular group. SingFit PRIME comes with a license for the SingFit PRIME app and the 12 new themed booklet playlists per quarter, Bose speakers, 15 music shakers, 15 scarves, SingFit Case, One Certified Community Plaque, Facilitator Certificates, and an Operations Manual.
One facility using SingFit Prime, Oxnard Family Circle, undertook a study where they found that participating in sessions helped to reduce the need for PRN, aka as needed, anti-anxiety medications by 40%.
"Singing as a therapeutic tool has benefits through the entirety of our lifetimes. Studies show singing during pregnancy increases the bond between mothers and child, helping to decrease postpartum depression through optimizing cortisol. For late-stage cancer patients, singing can help decrease pain," said Francine.
"Our new SingFit PRO and SingFit CAREGIVER solutions are algorithmically driven meaning our therapeutic team can optimize the interventions for specific conditions as well as long term and daily goals."
The future of SingFit
SingFit is currently in use at over 500 senior living communities with more than 50 enterprise customers including Sunrise Senior Living, Eskaton Senior Living, and Carlton Senior Living. More than 2,600 staff at the long-term facilities have gone through SingFit training to moderate sessions with over 32,000 total participants who have engaged in 12 million individual singing experiences.
The company anticipates that it will be at over a thousand long term care facilities by the end of 2024, and that the use of SingFit PRO and CAREGIVER by home health and home care agencies, Medicare Advantage plans, and distributed through third party caregiving platforms, will expand the platform’s footprint beyond long term care. It will also expand into new conditions including mental wellness, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, aphasia and pain management.
In addition, SingFit will be launching in the UK in 2024, where the use of music as medicine is already covered by the National Health Service as both a health and social intervention, unlike in the United States, where there are only a few payers reimbursing for sessions with certified music therapists and only in very limited scenarios.
That, Francine explained, is what made Longevity such a good partner for the company going forward.
"No other payer that we have come across is reimbursing for the use of tech enabled therapeutic music. While some health plans have put up billboards or published ads encouraging their members to make music to improve their health and quality of life, they are not actually covering those costs under their plans," she said.
"In this way, Longevity is a true pioneer, paving the way for others to pick up the torch. Currently music as medicine is primarily obtained through private pay. By paving the way for other payers, Longevity is helping to ensure everyone has access to its care."
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