Techstars: A Journey into Healthcare
We had a dream — a big dream — to make the world better with Virtual Reality. Working with the best academics in the world, we learned how VR could help people tackle big human problems. Academic research has proven time and time again, VR can make us more empathetic, reduce anxiety, and even help decrease severe acute pain.
We talked to a lot of people, at big companies, and big organizations (even the White House) about this big idea. Some smiled. Many nodded. Cedars Sinai and a few other innovators took action! A few months later, we find ourselves involved as part of the first Techstars Healthcare Accelerator, in partnership with Cedars-Sinai.
After an NBC News segment aired about our pilot with Cedars, a number of people in the investment and tech community recommended that we take a look at the accelerator. We realized we were onto something HUGE. We already had our plan, and this would change it. We asked advice from many business leaders and met with the Techstars and Cedars-Sinai Managing Director. We felt the influence of the Techstars community. It became clear that when enough smart people tell you to do something, you better do it.
Techstars Healthcare Accelerator
The Techstars Healthcare Accelerator Program, in partnership with Cedars-Sinai, is a 3-month intensive program that provides access to capital, mentorship, business development and more, to illuminate the entrepreneurial journey. It’s basically a crash course in the healthcare landscape to help drive innovation. As part of Techstars, we moved our office and came together with a great number of healthcare tech innovators. We immediately felt the value out of being part of the community. The accelerator environment is collaborative and challenging, and we needed to bring our “game faces” as innovative, smart-as-hell entrepreneurs enveloped us, united behind a common purpose. With access to some of the top healthcare professionals and business people in the country, who all want to see us succeed, and with Cedars fully engaged from the C-suite down, the support has been overwhelmingly positive.
Our journey is dynamic and exciting, and we’ve learned a lot. Here are a few of our key takeaways from this experience thus far:
The Value of VR in Healthcare
VR can help patients in a variety of departments from Emergency and Surgery, to OBGYN and Pediatrics. From reducing anxiety before an operation to distracting a patient from pain after surgery, the therapeutic benefits for a patient using VR have proven beneficial in improving the healthcare experience.
One of the most important metrics is patient satisfaction. Under the Affordable Care Act, there’s an increasing importance of patient satisfaction scores for hospitals. In fact, quality is now being tied to reimbursement, with a percentage of Medicare reimbursements tied to quality measures. Thus far, our VR technology has been really helpful to patients in managing their anxiety and pain and we’re excited to see how this affects patient satisfaction long term.
Redefining “Better Design”
Even with the best content in the world, VR wouldn’t be integrated into healthcare if it isn’t easy to use, embraced by the healthcare professionals and is non-disruptive to a very complex work flow. We’ve redefined our “better design” mantra to include not just the patient experience, but also workflow design and staff experience. Our applications can be experienced from the confines of a hospital bed, from different positions (seated, supine, etc.) and by people of all ages and backgrounds, all easily managed by the nursing staff.
Plus, there are a lot of small, but important things to figure out, such as sanitation. If you’ve ever tried VR at a conference or public display, you know it’s not the most sanitary experience. Your face touches the same part of the headset as hundreds of others. We have had to innovate on how to take a consumer technology and make it useful in healthcare.
Ultimately, there needs to be a clear value proposition for the patient, the staff, and the healthcare provider. There is a lot of really engaging, entertaining VR content out there. But, there are very few content developers who are performing clinical validation and extensive user research to understand the effectiveness and usability of their content. For VR to be embraced in healthcare, there needs to be clear value demonstrated for helping the patient improve their experience in healthcare, helping the staff engage their patients in an innovative yet practical way, and for the healthcare provider to see benefits in their P&L.