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Virtual reality (VR) is not just a game anymore

CMS approves VR device to treat back pain, not only opening the door for virtual reality companies to get reimbursed from payors, but perhaps also creating a whole new category of care for patients.

AppliedVR is the company that manufactures a VR device that provides an eight-week immersive experience to fight lower back pain. With the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approval, other healthcare payors, such as commercial health plans, self-insured employers, and provider groups, may follow suit.

For CMS, the VR device is classified as a durable medical device, an already existing benefit category.

The AppliedVR device is designed for in-home care that relies on cognitive behavioral therapy including modules on pain education, breathing practices, pain distraction, and mindfulness.

CMS stated that clinical trials demonstrated “statistically greater improvements in pain outcomes from the use of the immersive VR device, as compared to non-immersive interventions” because the device activates “five regions of the brain and [engages] multiple neural systems.”

Patient retention throughout the program duration is critical to ensure optimal outcomes. Engagement strategies utilizing traditional and digital outreach modalities (text, automated call, email, etc.), can be effective methods to patients enthused and on top of their treatment regimen.

VR programs related to pain management may also reduce or eliminate the reliance on surgeries and addictive painkiller medications.

In fact, the FDA had to first approve the AppliedVR device for lower back pain before CMS could approve the device.

With the emphasis shifting to remote and in-home care, VR therapy can be a viable, cost-saving solution for many patients, particularly home-bound, disabled, and elderly patients.

And in-home care also has the benefit of creating a better overall experience for patients, their families, and caregivers.

What are your thought on using virtual reality for pain management?

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