BehaVR and Fern Health combine forces to become RealizedCare

Steven Loeb · November 16, 2023 · Short URL:

RealizedCare is a digital care management solution for chronic pain

In late 2022, BehaVR, a platform creating digital therapeutics through virtual reality, merged with OxfordVR, a UK-based developer of virtual reality therapy. 

Now, a little less than a year later, the company announced it's entering into another merger, this time with Fern Health, a virtual chronic pain management program, which will result in an entirely new entity: the companies will be combining their two businesses to create RealizedCare, a digital care management solution for chronic pain.

BehaVR's platform provides multi-sensory stimulation, meaning 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 seeks to activate neural processes that are useful for working through therapeutic techniques. 

In randomized controlled trials, including real world outcomes from over 23,000 encounters, patients who previously experienced BehaVR's Pain Neuroscience Education VR program had 2.5 times greater likelihood of a clinically significant reduction in disability, as well as 20% improvements in pain catastrophizing.

Meanwhile, Fern Health's virtual pain platform, which is available through employers and health plans, addresses the underlying causes of persistent pain by providing guided programs, delivering exercise therapy, interventions for sleep, nutrition, daily movement, and emotional health. Every Fern member is supported through pain-focused 1:1 clinical coaching and pain neuroscience education to improve function, reduce pain, and avoid unnecessary healthcare costs.

Fern Health's chronic pain programs were initially developed in collaboration with pain management clinicians at Massachusetts General Hospital. The company has also partnered with major US healthcare services, including the MetroHealth System and WebMD Health Services.

"Fern and BehaVR have highly complementary capabilities. BehaVR has developed powerful and engaging VR therapeutics for chronic pain. Fern has developed clinical coaching protocols and platform, robust native apps, and employer and provider market distribution. We recognized earlier this year that despite the clinical efficacy and engagement our VR therapeutics deliver, they’re no good if they don’t get adopted and paid for," BehaVR founder and CEO Aaron Gani told VatorNews.

The decision to merge with Fern Health came because BehaVR decided it was the right time to pursue digital care management to unlock the value of digital therapeutics, he explained. 

"As we continue on our path toward reimbursement for prescription DTx, the simple fact is we need a way to unlock that value now. The first area of the broader healthcare system where we can realize the value of DTx is care management and, with Fern, we can tailor this new digitally-powered care management solution toward those experiencing chronic pain," Gani said. 

RealizedCare will provide an advanced care management platform powered by DTx technology. The platform will combines DTx with traditional wraparound services. The new company will work with health plans, employers and value-based providers to identify, assess and engage members with chronic pain via a fully managed solution.

With RealizedCare, members and patients will be guided through a personalized care journey, receive digital interventions, are connected to a community with lived experience of chronic pain and can be referred directly to clinicians when necessary.

As part of the new offering, members will be assigned a pain coach and receive a personalized care plan, inclusive of pain neuroscience education, mindfulness practices, calming experiences, and immersive, gamified, graded exercise and movement. Members will also have access to PatientsLikeMe's community of over 160,000 people living with chronic pain who will provide peer and community support from those that understand the complexities and challenges of living with chronic pain. PatientsLikeMe is a digital health community that supports health consumer acquisition, engagement and activation, and is the first collaborator to support the member engagement aspect of this new offering.

In addition, RealizedCare also will continue to work on its pipeline of products, including gameChange for agoraphobic avoidance in patients with serious mental illness or PTSD, anxiety and depression interventions in partnership with Sumitomo Pharmaceuticals, and an intervention for opioid use disorder, funded by the National Institute for Drug Abuse.

"The combination of Fern Health's innovative virtual offering with BehaVR's expertise in building immersive, evidence-based DTx will enhance engagement and impact across RealizedCare's suite of clinically validated therapeutics," said Gani.

"This merger with Fern accelerates our ability to implement this new, more complete solution and target it initially towards those experiencing chronic pain."

Along with the merger, it was also revealed that German life science company Grünenthal International (GRT), the majority owner of Fern Health, made a strategic investment in RealizedCare; while the exact amount of funding is not being disclosed, Gani did reveal that it was in the singly digit millions, and that it makes GRT the company's largest shareholder, at about 20%. The company now has a post-round valuation of around $140 million and has raised a total of around $30 million. 

In addition, Gabriel Baertschi, CEO of GRT, will also be joining the RealizedCare board of directors. 

"Our purpose at RealizedCare continues to be creating a more resilient world, liberated from fear and pain. We will accomplish this by unlocking the potential of digital therapeutics to transform the accessibility, scalability, economics and effectiveness of mental and behavioral health care," said Gani.

"We are all, collectively, in the very early innings of the era in which digital therapeutics will fundamentally transform care delivery.  Until now digital health has merely supported care delivery.  In the future, it will become care delivery.  RealizedCare is part of the evolution of DTx finding its footing not just in clinical science and regulatory domains, but in the operating and economic domains as well." 

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