The Longevity

New Brunswick Launches Canada’s First Innovation Hub to Support Tech Solutions for Aging

The Canadian province of New Brunswick recently launched the country's first innovation hub focused on tech solutions for the aging.

The New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF), in collaboration with the AGE–WELL Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE), is launching Advancing Policies and Practices in Technology and Aging (APPTA), an innovation hub dedicated to building tech that supports healthy aging.

AGE-WELL NCE said the APPTA hub, which officially opened on May 16 in Fredericton, will focus mainly on developing technologies and solutions for policy, program, and service challenges in the field of technology and aging. The hub is meant to allow Canadians to benefit from emerging technologies that foster independent living and improve the quality of life for aging adults.

The goal is to help entrepreneurs get to market with their products and services designed to support healthy aging.

Lisa Harris, New Brunswick’s minister of seniors and long-term care [said], “We are delighted to be the host province for a hub that will be a national resource for policymakers, researchers, clinicians, and others working to implement novel technologies that will improve the health and wellbeing of older Canadians and their caregivers.”

The APPTA hub will help entrepreneurs take their ideas to market by connecting them to end users, policymakers, and service providers. AGE-WELL NCE said it will also bring training opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from the field of technology and aging. AGE-WELL and NBHRF will jointly fund the salaries of four individuals annually.

“This hub will promote knowledge-sharing and effective transfer of needed technologies right across Canada," [said] Bruno Battistini, president, CEO, and scientific director of NBHRF and a co-sponsor of the hub.

Conversa’s Doctor-to-Patient Platform Gets $8M Round of Funding

San Francisco-based Conversa Health will use the funds to make improvements to the platform and to scale up its operations in Portland, OR.

The Series A round was led by New York-based Northwell Ventures and also included Epic Ventures, Healthgrades, and other existing investors in the company.

Conversa’s Portland office was established in 2012 and works on the company’s technology, engineering, product development/management and operations functions. The company currently has ten employees based there, with plans to grow the office after the recent funding round.

The company's biggest personnel addition to the Portland office comes from Web MD.

Last month, the company added its new VP of Operations, digital health vet Becky James, to the office. James formerly spent twelve years in leadership positions at Web MD’s Portland office, most recently serving as the company’s senior director of client delivery.

The company's goals are familiar: improve patient engagement and health outcomes and lower costs.

Conversa offers more than 50 automated “conversation programs,” platforms that allow care teams to communicate with patients. The platforms are each tailored to different conditions, including asthma, congestive heart failure, diabetes and joint replacement.

SilverRide Offers Mobility Solutions for Bay Area’s Aging, Disabled

San Francisco-based SilverRide was founded in 2007, with a mission to meet the transportation needs of older adults with ambulatory or other limitations.

“When you get a ride from us, it’s a lot more than a ride,” said Jeff Maltz, who launched SilverRide in 2007 after hearing about older adults facing transportation problems. 

Drivers for SilverRide undergo background checks and random drug testing, but they also get training in transporting people with special needs of all kinds, physical and cognitive.

“The truth is, it’s a little easier to help someone in a wheelchair,” Maltz said. “If you’re helping somebody with a cane or walker, there’s a higher risk of fall.” SilverRide calls the service “door-through-door.” Drivers don’t pull up to the curb and wait for the passenger to hop in. Instead they provide a safe escort from indoors to the car and back indoors again at the destination.

Drivers, who get liability insurance coverage from SilverRide, also shuttle customers to and from medical procedures that involve anesthesia, where doctors recommend against patients driving themselves.

SilverRide staff additionally develop the profile of each rider when they sign up, allowing for more individualized service.

[For example, the] company... gathers information about whether there are steps outside clients’ homes, how to reach their emergency contacts, how often a client likes to go out and where he or she likes to go. The company promises to keep those details and preferences on file and confidential.

...For an additional fee, SilverRide drivers will stay with clients who can’t or don’t want to be on their own, accompanying them to games, shows and other events. Those costs range from $45 to $85 an hour. The company says its drivers spend 70 percent of their time in that capacity.

Like most transportation services designed for older adults, SilverRide does not presume smartphone usage.

Riders can summon SilverRide with a phone call or by email, convenient options for those who aren’t adept with smartphones. “We have a [smartphone] app,” Maltz said. “Zero people use it.”

Cities and States across the country are confronting the transportation needs of their aging populations, and many partnerships with startups--or more established companies like Uber or Lyft--are springing up.

“There are lots of models that have aspects of what is offered in SilverRide,” said Virginia Rize, co-director of the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center. “I think we’re in a period where there is tremendous development and enhancement of transportation options.”

The reason for this wave of developments nationally is a growing need that will be challenging to meet. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires local governments to provide rides for anyone who can’t use ordinary public transportation. Often, what’s provided are minibuses that carry multiple people, each to a different destination, while others ride along waiting for their stops. It can be a slow and inconvenient way to get around. In addition, these services are struggling to stretch their capacity for an aging population.

SilverRide hopes to expand into other markets to meet some of this growing demand.

[Founder Maltz] believes accessible transportation can translate into better health for aging people by enabling them to socialize and take part in activities they would otherwise miss. He gave an example by telling a story.

SilverRide got a call from someone whose uncle had been told he had two weeks to live, Maltz said. The uncle wanted to visit a gay bar one more time before he died. After making sure the man was OK to travel, SilverRide drove him to the bar and handed him off safely to the bartender.

“On the way back, the guy asked if we could take him again the next day. We told him we’d take him as many times as he wanted to go,” Maltz recalled. “The guy wound up going to gay bars three to five times a week — for the next five years.”

One Year After Launch, Israeli Digital Health Incubator has First Portfolio Company

A year ago, at MedCity INVEST, their national healthcare investing conference, eHealth ventures announced that it had secured a tender from the Office of the Chief Scientist in Israel to run a digital health incubator. Now, the incubator has invested in its first portfolio business.

Tom Sudow, director of business development with Cleveland Clinic Innovations, which is a partner in the fund...gave an update on the venture in a phone interview with MedCity News.

TikTalk2Me is a digital health company taking on speech therapy. Its approach combines gaming with speech therapy and voice recognition technology, according to a brief description of the business emailed by Sudow.

The Israeli incubator is also reviewing two more companies for investment, following their selection in its startup competition.

Pending a due diligence review, it is considering a company focused on food allergies and another with a connected cap for insulin pens.

AllerGuard is an early stage company that claims it is developing a matchbox-sized personal allergen hazard sensor to help people with strong food allergies. It can detect the chemical properties of the allergy-inducing compounds and alert users, according to a description of the company on the F6S website.

Insulog is developing a connected insulin pen cap for disposable insulin pens to support adherence. It is designed to detect and count the insulin units injected and enable that information to be tracked by users.

These tenders from the Office of the Chief Scientist, which last eight years, have sparked some other interesting collaborations in digital health.

In 2015, Medtronic and IBM won a grant to set up a digital medicine incubator in Haifa with Pitango Venture Capital and Rambam Hospital. Although it was initially called Health 02, it launched last year as MindUp. The digital health incubator has one portfolio company to date — Hemonitor Medical. The company develops an autonomous, continuous, non-invasive ultrasound device for patient monitoring, according to MindUp’s website.

Johnson & Johnson opened a biotech accelerator with OrbiMed Israel and Takeda Pharmaceuticals called FutuRx and has built a portfolio of nine companies spanning pre-clinical treatments for cancer to Orphan diseases such as Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome and X-linked thrombocytopenia.

Teva and Philips’ Sanara Ventures has six companies in its portfolio such as home monitoring business spirCare and telehealth business My HomeDoc.

With a goal of making Israeli companies competitive in the U.S. market, the incubators all follow the same structure dictated by the grant.

As part of the program, incubators are given budgets ranging from $500,000 to $800,000 and 85 percent of that comes from the government through a grant — the rest is financed by the incubators. Each early stage company in the program pays the government 3 percent to 5 percent of royalties from the revenue they generate until the full amount of the grant, including interest, is repaid, according to a website for the program.

When Will Pharma Really Adopt Digital Health Tools and Not Simply Dabble?

Pharma's role in digital health innovation has been making news lately--from the number of deals and the sheer quantity of dollars flying around to fund startups, launch their pilot projects, and announce early partnerships. Pfizer recently announced its first digital health accelerator and Bayer has a full ground team in Silicon Valley to keep its finger on the pulse of what's new with digital health startups.

But at a recent media roundtable at Veeva System's Global Commercial and Medical Summit, says MedCity News' Stephanie Baum, experts discussed when pharma will move beyond these digital health "experiments" and really adopt its tools.

Digital health is at an interesting point in its evolution. Not only are some providers and payers connecting patients and members with apps and connected devices but also pharma companies are collaborating with startups and growth stage companies to develop applications to address challenges such as medication adherence. But which groups are further along in the adoption of these tools beyond the pilot phase? And how can the data these tools generate be harnessed for the greatest benefit?

Those were some of the questions addressed in a media roundtable at Veeva System’s Global Commerical and Medical Summit with Daniel Gandor, the head of Takeda Digital Accelerator U.S., and Stephen Davies, research director on Gartner’s healthcare team, spoke with Arno Sosa, Veeva vice president of product strategy.

Everyone agrees the potential for widespread change would skyrocket if pharma were to move beyond experimentation and truly adopt some of the these technologies. But what is required for that to happen?

Asked what it would take for digital health to stop being an experiment and get mainstream adoption from pharma companies like Takeda, Gandor responded in an email following the talk.

“For digital health tools to truly become mainstream they must be integrated within the overall patient experience, provide tangible value for customers, and have credible, scientific evidence proving that value,” Gandor said in email after the talk “When these tools are embedded earlier within the R&D process, it creates an opportunity to not only capture this evidence but potentially fundamentally change what the solution for patients might be.

“To see solutions that might result in completely new business models for our industry, I believe the approach has a higher likelihood of being disruptive when considered as early upstream as possible. Digital health tools can also certainly be added onto products on the market, and there are quite successful beyond the pill initiatives out there. Ultimately a balanced and simultaneous approach will help drive digital health tools to become more mainstream over time.”

Integration may sound like a straightforward goal, but the details of how health data is collected and managed in our current disjointed healthcare system mean that we are still a long way from achieving it.

The challenge of products generating lots of data to gain insight into the patient experience, such as measuring the effectiveness of certain drugs and treatment protocols over time, is that it’s tough to integrate and contextualize all that data in one place. Despite the likes of Validic and other companies creating tools to de-silo that data from apps and connected devices, and for all the talk of the benefits of interoperability, health systems, electronic health record vendors and yes, pharma companies, tend to fiercely guard their patient data — de-identified and otherwise.

Davies noted a couple of challenges with the push by pharma, medical device companies, payers and providers to satisfy their hunger for data to produce insights on the patient experience. There’s no one way patients can access this data. It can also be tough for healthcare organizations to take action from the insights they gain.

Might we Finally See a Digital Health Unicorn? Caremerge’s CTO Believes We Will

Co-Founder and CTO of Caremerge, Fahad Aziz, recently published a piece in Forbes on why he believes no digital health startup has yet achieved the "unicorn" status of a billion dollar valuation. Can it ever happen? Aziz believes it can, because some of the chronic limiting factors in the rapid adoption characteristic of unicorns is increasingly likely as the sector matures and offers ways to get around the limitations.

With Caremerge being one of the the fastest growing healthcare startups around, and one that has raised an impressive $20m in investment to date, his perspective is nuanced and insightful. (Please also check out The Longevity Network's own exclusive Entrepreneur of the Week interview with co-founder and CEO of Caremerge, Asif Khan).

Despite the fact that health is a basic need, not one digital health startup has attained unicorn status...There are several reasons as to why digital health startups have failed thus far to build multibillion-dollar businesses.

The First Difficulty: Securing Adequate Capital

No unicorn exists today that didn’t raise a crazy amount of cash in their first few years of growth. Digital health startups don’t have that luxury — which becomes a huge roadblock for them to grow exponentially.

Investors feel (and rightly so) that they don’t have enough leverage to assist a healthcare startup with growth. In addition to extensive government regulations, buyers (hospitals, physician offices, pharmacies or long-term care facilities) are often slow in buying technology. Investors are excited about the space because of the potential for demand but not enough to take on hundreds of millions of dollars of risk.

The bright spot: that investor confidence is growing.

In 2010, digital health companies received $1 billion in total investment, a drop in the bucket in comparison to others. Six years later, that number jumped 810% to $8.1 billion in 2016, as reported by Novahill Partners in their quarterly report (paywall). Part of this is due to entrepreneurs finding creative ways to generate revenue, lessening their dependence on providers.

The Second Difficulty: Costly Integration with Provider Systems

The fact that a digital health product cannot work in isolation and that it needs data from hospitals or physician offices adds complication and slows down innovation. By the time a startup creates those integrations, it has exhausted its funds and is likely dependent on this investment to work for them. And they usually don’t.

The bright spot: these integrations have become easier and less costly to perform

Major health systems offer out-of-the-box APIs and interfaces that make the integration process quick to build and test. There are also a number of third-party systems like Interfaceware and Mirth that provide built-in connectors to use and consultants who would do the integration for less, thus allowing startups to focus on their core business.

Third Difficulty: The Stakeholders Who Will Pay have Different Objectives Than the Ones Who Will Use

Healthcare regulations and large customers (like hospitals) often dictate the direction of a particular solution, and it becomes very difficult for a digital health startup to focus on optimizing its features to increase user tracking. New features take priority over A/B testing on existing features. Current unicorns in different markets have mastered the art of increasing traction by designing and redesigning the user experience, gamifying engagement, and sending smart notifications. This is only possible when you have one core offering.

The bright spot: many of the more successful startups are figuring out how to navigate this conflict.

More and more digital health startups are now trying to stay focused on their offerings. PatientPing, Amino, ZocDoc and Honor are several examples of digital health startups that have shown high growth while offering one core service.

The Fourth Difficulty: Many Digital Health Solutions Pull Provider Attention Away from Their Patients

Most healthcare technologies are used by care providers at hospitals, doctors’ offices, pharmacies and senior living communities. However, while technology has helped them become efficient, it takes their focus away from what they are trained to do. If you visit your primary doctor, you will notice that while they are talking to you, they are staring at a computer. It’s annoying, and they hate it too, but they have no choice.

This is the biggest challenge for digital health startups. They haven’t made applications that keep their users in mind.

The bright spot: there is a glimmer of hope in voice-activation, AI and other innovations.

Goodbye to clunky electronic medical records...Forward, a Silicon Valley startup, is determined to change that. By using voice recognition, artificial intelligence and connected EHR, they are letting physicians do what they do best: consult and let the technology assist them in a way that’s not a hindrance.

The Fifth Difficulty: B2B Does Not Utilize the Same Viral Consumer Adoption Model as Unicorns in Other Sectors

Most unicorns provide solutions to consumers. There are proven methodologies that allow to exponentially increase a consumer base via user engagement and virtuous loops (aka network effect). This is not as applicable in a B2B setting, but it’s not far-fetched either.

The bright spot: other sectors have demonstrated there is a version of rapid adoption that works in B2B growth

Palantir and Dropbox are two B2B companies that made it to unicorn status while providing solutions for other businesses. The business models were different, but they mastered the art of user engagement to retain and grow users in the system. Once users become the champions of their applications, it leaves decision makers and enterprises with no option to switch. Digital health startups now have these proven examples, and they need to employ them in their own businesses to generate the kind of growth that’s expected from a unicorn.

The Conclusion: any day now, the bright spots will win out over the entrenched difficulties in achieving the market scale of a unicorn in a digital health startup.

These are very exciting times for digital health startups. According to RockHealth, in the first quarter of 2017, there were 71 digital health deals totaling over $1 billion. Most of these investments were second and third rounds, which shows that startups have established traction and wowed their investors. Moreover, digital health startups are looking for creative ways to increase their revenue by signing up technology partners in addition to direct sales. And finally, more entrepreneurs from non-health startups are entering this space. For example, the founders of Vida, Honor, Forward and CloudMedx came from tech giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Based on all of this, there is reason to believe that very soon we will see not just one but several digital health startups transform into unicorns.

Seeking Provider Adoption of your Digital Health Service? Then Be Device-Neutral, says Survey

The annual survey, The State of Mobile Communications in Healthcare, was released this week. One of its key findings: the tide is finally turning for mobile communications adoption among hospital staff--but only if they support a BYOD (bring your own device) policy.

90% of physicians at BYOD supporting hospitals participate in the program, according to recent survey of more than 300 U.S. healthcare professionals conducted by Spok.

The survey...reveals that hospitals are making progress in addressing the previously identified infrastructure gaps in order to better support mobile strategies and devices. Wide-area pagers are gradually declining but are still used by 50 percent of respondents. It also illustrates that there is no standard device and hospitals are still trying to figure out what is the most appropriate device for their staff based on their functional roles and requirements. For this reason, Spok recommends that health systems implement communication solutions that are device neutral.

The survey also assesses communications infrastructure and opportunities to improve mobile communications. HIT Consultant summarized eight additional key trends:

1. Forty-five percent of respondents answered that Wi-Fi coverage is a challenge for mobile device users

2. 38 percent cited cellular coverage as problematic

3. Data security as a mobile device challenge dropped from 43 percent to 31 percent

4. Hospital staff still carries a diverse mix of mobile devices to do their jobs

5. Smartphones are the most popular device, with 77 percent of respondents saying their organization supports them, while other tools, including pagers, maintain strong representation

6. In-house pagers dominate as the device of choice for non-clinical staff (48 percent), smartphones rank second (40 percent), and Wi-Fi phones came in third (30 percent)

7. Twenty-one percent of surveyed healthcare professionals said their organization uses encrypted pagers

8. Enhancing patient care team collaboration and using mobile strategies to simplify technology and bring uniformity across hospital system were identified as the biggest opportunities for mobile communication improvements over the next three to five years


Cleveland Clinic’s Commercialization Arm Gets Restructured, Adds Execs

Among the successes over the past two decades at Cleveland Clinic--many of which are in the news this week as Dr. Toby Cosgrove recently announced he will step down from his role as longtime CEO--is the development of its commercialization arm, Cleveland Clinic Innovations (CCI).

Last month, CCI announced it was restructuring the division to further expand and refine its ability to commercialize medical innovations and also attract talent to Cleveland.

The restructuring elevates the role of Cleveland Clinic Ventures, with the goal of putting added focus on spinning off companies and raising funds to get those companies launched.

[It] will align the commercialization process under two Cleveland Clinic departments. Brian Donley, M.D., chief of staff at Cleveland Clinic, will oversee CCI and Steven Glass, chief financial officer for Cleveland Clinic, will oversee Cleveland Clinic Ventures.

“This new structure will maintain appropriate separation and eliminate any conflicts of interest in the commercialization process,” said Glass in a prepared statement. “It will also better position Cleveland Clinic to take to market the breakthrough inventions of our caregivers into new medical products and companies that benefit patients.”

CCI has become a success story of commercializing innovative ideas to improve patient experience and outcomes by tapping into its practicing caregivers for ideas.

Founded in 2000, CCI has issued over 850 patents and executed more than 500 licenses on medical devices and techniques. Additionally, CCI has helped launch 77 companies, which have created over 1,200 jobs and raised more than $1 billion in follow-on funding, according to Cleveland Clinic.

Successful...spinoffs include Explorys, a data firm purchased by IBM, and Intellect, a neuroscience device-maker acquired by Boston Scientific. In June 2016, CCI executed a license with a national patient experience services company to distribute and implement Cleveland Clinic’s Communicate with H.E.A.R.T. program to hospitals looking to improve their patient experience. NaviGate performed a first in human transcatheter mitral valve replacement in April 2015. Cleveland Heart Labs has grown to over 200 employees.

A new director has also been named for each of the two newly restructured departments.

Peter O’Neill will serve as executive director of CCI. He has more than 10 years of experience with CCI, including serving as director of commercialization and chief executive of one of its spinoff companies, Custom Orthopaedic Solutions.

Jack Miner, former director of the Venture Center at the University of Michigan, will be managing director of Cleveland Clinic Ventures. In his new role, Miner oversees a team that focuses on the 77 spin-off companies in its portfolio. He also plays a lead role in spinning off new companies and raising the funds needed to not only get off the ground, but to get all the way to market. These plans will include funding strategies, technology road maps and business model development.

48 States Provide Some Medicaid Reimbursement for Telehealth, says CCHP Report

This month, the Center for Connected Health Policy has released the fifth edition of its State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies Report. (An interactive map and search tool of the results is also available on their website). Chief among its findings: 48 states and Washington D.C. allow for some kind of Medicaid reimbursement for some form of live video fee-for-service.

“While many states are beginning to expand telehealth reimbursement, others continue to restrict and place limitations on telehealth delivered services,” CCHP said in the report. “Although each state’s laws, regulations and Medicaid program policies differ significantly, certain trends are evident when examining the various policies.”

Specifically, 13 states reimburse for store-and-forward delivered services in Medicaid; states that only provide reimbursement for teleradiology were not counted in this number. Twenty-two states reimburse in Medicaid for remote patient monitoring.

The report also found that 31 states provide a transmission and/or facility fee. Six states have geographic/rural restrictions. And 23 states limit Medicaid reimbursement to a specific list of facilities.

Although the overall number of states providing some type of reimbursement for telehealth has remained relatively constant for the past two years, the details of reimbursement are evolving rapidly.

When it comes to private payer reimbursement, 35 jurisdictions have laws that govern reimbursement of telehealth, the report found. This number has remained constant since CCHP’s August 2016 update, although some states have made modifications to their private payer law. Some laws require reimbursement be equal to in-person coverage; however, not all laws mandate reimbursement.
Looking to the future, CCHP noted that 44 states have already introduced some 200 pieces of telehealth-related legislation addressing reimbursement for both private payers and government agencies. 

How Virtual Reality is Already Reducing Costs in Healthcare

It is well known that the healthcare sector has historically been one of the slowest to adopt technology and therefore to also avoid the digital disruptions so acutely felt already in retail, communications, travel and other areas driven by consumer demand. The recent advances of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) may prove to be crucial factors in finally reaching the tipping point of tech disruption in healthcare.

[N]ew healthcare-related startups are completely deconstructing the mystique of the doctor-patient encounter [and] they’re accomplishing this disruption while cutting costs. Here are a few of these standout innovations that raise new possibilities compan[ies]:

Telemedicine offers perhaps the greatest potential revolution in the standard of care that would affect the vast majority of people, in a way that will have real impact not only on how quickly they receive a medical assessment but also on the cost of that appointment.

The American Medical Association has gone on record as stating that fully 70 percent of office visits can be effectively covered by a telemedicine platform.

Akos recently announced the launch of its first U.S. healthcare practice, a virtual platform app charging a $49 flat fee for 15 live video minutes with a board-certified Akos physician. These virtual doctors offer 24/7 availability, as well as the professional authority to diagnose, treat and prescribe if necessary. Patients whose needs can’t be handled remotely will be referred by Akos to a local provider within the Akos network. Akos has no membership or insurance requirements, and it discounts it’s per-visit costs for those patients who pay a small monthly subscription charge.

This fee-for-service plan is very affordable compared to what many people are used to paying...and it keeps patients’ medical records securely stored on a HIPAA-compliant platform. Akos co-founder Dr. Swaraj Singh states, “The opportunity to fix healthcare, making it accessible and affordable, is enormous. By introducing communities to Akos, we will eliminate the anxiety and uncertainty around healthcare, and instead help patients feel empowered about their healthcare decisions.”

VR can also influence designers--of assisted living facilities, for example--by literally giving them a chance to experience what it's like to have the "diminished perception of patients with dementia" or any  number of other conditions.

[A]rchitectural design and building renovation represent a sizable chunk of capital expenditure. Scottish architect David Burgher, collaborating with VR provider Wireframe Immersive, has developed the Virtual Reality Empathy Platform. This modeling platform informs Burgher’s designs for assisted living and long-term care facilities.  By seeing potential care spaces through the virtual eyes of patients, Burgher states that he can “better consider the lighting, layout, and way-finding for a safer and more independent living environment.” Once the simulation has been completed, building can get underway and Burgher notes that “designers will get it right the first time and therefore reduce costs” for the future building’s owners.

Continuing on with the theme of those older adults who are senior care facilities, VR is showing tremendous promise for reducing social isolation of residents and even increasing reported levels of resident happiness, particularly among those with limited physical mobility.

Rendever’s VR platform opens up the world to older people with disabilities who live in such communities. Rendever’s motto is “expanding worlds,” and its stunning premise is that virtual reality is the perfect solution for patients whose health conditions prevent them from moving around much in the real physical world. Rendever breaks isolation by letting users explore the globe, and the facilities where it’s used report a 40 percent increase in resident happiness.

CBS News recently profiled a senior living community where Rendever is stimulating a new level of engagement among residents. Lally Evers and Reed Hayes, both grad students at MIT, plan to sell their platform to residential communities for an upfront fee plus a monthly subscription. 

As Renever's success reveals, seniors can be quite receptive to VR, reinforcing more general data on adoption of digital health tools by the 65+ population.

A 2016 survey of over 7,000 elderly patients found more of them than expected use digital devices for health monitoring purposes. Furthermore, a majority of survey respondents indicated an interest in using wearables for monitoring health. Lead survey author Ian Manovel commented that “digital health has no age limit.”

The surge of success in fitness or activity trackers made them one of the early success stores in digital health tech. And now, many employers are tapping into this consumer enthusiasm to encourage employees to monitor their health and stay active.

[Companies] financially thrive when...employees stay healthy. The emergence of wearables provides employers with a win-win situation, as they incentivize their workers to take advantage of devices such as Fitbit, Jawbone, Apple Watch and other monitors. Rewards from employers range from gift vouchers and gym passes to lower health insurance premiums. Workers with specific health conditions such as diabetes can earn extra incentives by wearing monitors that help them manage blood sugar levels. [E]mployees benefit by experiencing greater levels of health and well-being, while [employers] save money by reducing sick days and increasing productivity.

Emergency room visits are one of the most costly and often avoidable expenses in our healthcare system. It's no surprise, then, that "remote patient monitoring (RPM) accounts for the majority of tech spending [in the smart devices market]".

This trend is partly due to the fact that today’s reimbursement laws reward providers for good outcomes, and if a doctor can monitor patients’ conditions automatically, then problems can be addressed before they turn into emergencies.

When...patients receive information on the best ways to manage their own specific conditions, they stay more engaged and proactive about their own health, and more compliant with treatment regimens. A new area called “remote health management” is developing, as exemplified by solutions such as Health Harmony from Care Innovations.

Do you have a healthcare company? If so, this list is concluded with some advice.

[T]he fact that virtual reality frees the medical practice from geographic constraints is already giving rise to powerful use cases in the delivery of health care. The potential of VR to make healthcare delivery more cost-effective is already being demonstrated, and your company would be wise to adopt it in the short term with long-term investment in mind.