This post is part of our Future of Medical Industry series where we interview the leading founders and executives on the front lines of their industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Alex Goldberg, CEO and founder of Provata Health.
1. What's the history of Provata Health?
AG: Provata Health is a digital health company pioneering digital preventive medicine as a means to generate better health outcomes, better care, and lower medical costs. Provata delivers its state-of-the-art digital platform to large employers, health plans and hospital systems. In 2015, Provata became the first digital health platform proven in a peer-reviewed medical journal to positively impact both the mental and physical health of participants.
Since commercialization in October 2013, Provata Health digital health programs are now offered to hundreds of thousands of individuals across over 1,000 worksites. In June 2016, Provata Health was recognized as the fastest growing tech and healthcare company in Oregon. In 2017, Provata joined the Inc. 5000 as one of the top 50 fastest growing private healthcare companies in the United States.
2. What specific problem does Provata Health solve? How do you solve it?
AG: The majority of U.S. healthcare costs are due to preventable behaviors—things that we can change. Digital health solutions present an opportunity to change behaviors and create healthy habits. However, after digging deeper into the digital health sector, I realized there were not many solutions available to companies that were actually proven to make people become healthier. So I decided to build it myself.
We are able to accomplish our outcomes by offering the first digital health platform that connects users to health coaches, board-certified physicians, and colleagues to help improve health and prevent the onset of chronic diseases. Our state of the art platform is pushing the limits of digital health with gorgeous design and groundbreaking innovative features such as digital health games, virtual reality meditation, direct video chat, real-time access to a network of over 80,000 U.S. licensed physicians, data integrations with electronic medical records from thousands of hospitals and clinics to provide smart feedback and personalized goals post doctor visits, advanced activity tracking, health coaching, and integrations with major wearables and fitness apps.
Our platform takes a total health approach because we know that our physical health and mental health are interrelated. That is where one of my favorite parts of our solution comes into play: our virtual reality guided meditation app, Provata VR. The typical guided meditation approach—an audio recording instructing you how to meditate—hasn’t advanced much technologically in decades. Combining VR with mindfulness meditation lets users transport themselves to relaxing environments, bringing a whole new dimension to the meditation experience. We want to provide people an escape to help them still their minds and focus on their meditation. An immersive VR environment does just that.
Provata VR is a virtual reality meditation app that allows users to escape to a variety of stunning locations around the world, including tropical waterfalls, secluded beaches, dazzling Northern Lights and even underwater coral reefs. The app introduces meditation biofeedback, a patent-pending system that leverages advances in physiological monitoring to enhance the meditation experience. Users can sync popular wearable devices, such as Apple Watch, to visualize the effects of their meditation sessions on their heart rate and overall health. Through smart feedback, Provata VR helps users better understand which meditation exercises, locations, and times of day have the greatest impact on their heart rate.
3. How will VR disrupt the medical industry?
AG: We’re still discovering all the ways that VR will disrupt the medical industry. I can speak to the promise of VR in the context of behavioral therapy and more specifically, guided meditation. With our meditation app, Provata VR, we leverage technological advances to empower everyone from beginners to experienced practitioners to take their meditation sessions to the next level with a fully immersive meditation experience. More broadly, we see VR as an opportunity to improve the patient experience and serve as a pain management and stress management therapy.
4. How can VR improve mental health?
AG: As mindfulness meditation grows in popularity, scientific research reveals its benefits are widespread, including increased productivity, lower stress, as well as improved focus, cognitive skills and memory. The effects extend to physiological measures as studies indicate that meditation can help to lower risk of strokes and heart attacks. Combining VR with mindfulness meditation lets users fully immerse themselves in relaxing environments, bringing a new dimension to the meditation experience.
As an example with our own application, we provided Provata VR to hospital clinic employees as an innovative strategy to help manage stress, a hallmark for many health care jobs. Health care workers rank among the nation’s most stressed employees. Sustained levels of high stress are not only a detriment to caretakers, but can potentially affect the quality of care provided to patients.
What became most promising was to see how the clinics incorporated Provata VR into their patient care for everything from pain management to anxiety. Some examples included providing pregnancy patients with Provata VR’s breathing meditation exercises to assist with breathing practices. Our VR app and headset was also provided to help relax nervous patients before medical procedures.
5. What's the future of VR in the medical industry?
Stress-Relief & Pain Relief Strategy for Patients: Being isolated inside a hospital room is far from ideal. VR is an opportunity for patients to remove themselves from the confines of the hospital and transport themselves to tranquil environments. In addition to improving the patient experience, we can use VR to reduce stress and chronic pain, which, in effect, can lower resource utilization and decrease cost of care.
Educational Tool: Streaming VR cameras will let medical students experience surgical operations from inside the operating room.
VR Telemedicine: This one is a bit out there, but I have seen some different technologies that could make this possible. Surgeons performing movements outside of the OR and executed by a robotic device that is actually performing the operation.
VR is incredibly promising and we are excited to continue to explore different ways to use it to improve healthcare.