Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: CES 2019: The Big Trends for Business

CES 2019 (exclusive): AARP trialing virtual reality for remote healthcare

Partnership exploring VR to solve mounting access and cost issues related to healthcare for seniors.

Can virtual reality serve as a remote medical diagnostic tool for seniors, who often have difficulty accessing quality healthcare? An ongoing collaboration between VRHealth, a healthcare technology company specializing virtual reality solutions and data analysis, and AARP Innovation Lab is testing the concept.

The idea is to use sensors and VR technology to enable remote health monitoring. VRHealth's telehealth platform, available in the Oculus store, enables seniors to grant key participants in the medical process, like family members or physicians, access to healthcare data collected during VR therapy sessions. Caregivers are then able to make adjustments to treatment, potentially avoiding the need for a doctor's visit.

Putting aside the low hanging jokes about my parents and their somewhat strained relationship with technology, the idea has a lot to recommend it. Mobility issues, money, and location constraints disproportionately conspire against seniors when it comes to accessing quality healthcare.

According to Pew Research, "nearly one-in-five (19%) Americans ages 65 and older say they had a medical problem but did not visit a doctor, skipped a medical test or a treatment recommended by a doctor, did not fill a prescription or skipped doses of their medicine because of cost constraints."

While not a replacement for in-person treatment, a virtual connection to a healthcare provider could help mitigate some of the cost and mobility difficulties associated with establishing ongoing care.

"Our telehealth platform is a crucial step in the healthcare process because it enables patients to engage in a healthcare routine in the comfort of their own home while providing access to their data directly to their doctors," VRHealth CEO Eran Orr says. "Any adjustments that need to be made to a patient healthcare regime can be adjusted based on the data in the platform."

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Potential pitfalls involved in beaming medical data over a network include the obvious digital privacy considerations, especially with vulnerable populations like older adults. There's also the concern that caregivers could get an incomplete picture based on inbound data, resulting in improper treatment.


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VRHealth is hoping to mitigate that likelihood with robust data collection and analysis. The company's platform uses sophisticated tracking tools while the patient is engaged in VR therapy around several different use cases, including brain health applications, memory span and cognitive skills, neck exercises, and pain management techniques. As patients engage in directed activities in an immersive, 360-degree VR environment, vital data is collected, analyzed, and communicated with caregivers.

VRHealth has a residency at AARP Innovation Lab and is demoing the tele-health platform at AARP's CES booth.

"AARP's presence at CES is about highlighting how technology can increase social connections and improve people's health, wealth and personal fulfillment," said Andy Miller, AARP's senior vice president of innovation and product development. "VR Health is exhibiting with us at CES since its VR platform helps foster crucial connections that seek to allow physicians, patients and their families to receive critical health information in real-time in order to provide the best possible care."

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