The effectiveness of therapeutic virtual reality (VR) and wearable technology to manage pain associated with acute orthopedic injuries of the lower back and extremities will be explored by Travelers, Cedars-Sinai, Samsung Electronics America, Bayer and applied VR.
The Cedars-Sinai’s Center for Outcomes Research and Education and Department of Orthopaedic Surgery will conduct the clinical research project over 16 months and include between 90 and 140 local participants, ages 18 to 65. The goal of the program is to improve outcomes for injured workers by leveraging state-of-the-art technology.
“Workplace injuries that lead to chronic pain can cause ongoing issues, as an injured employee may mask pain with opioids or other drugs,” said Dr. Melissa Burke, national pharmacy director at Travelers. “Identifying new, non-pharmacologic alternatives for pain management can help an injured employee avoid chronic pain, lower the chances that they will develop a dangerous opioid addiction and reduce medical costs. We are grateful for this partnership and look forward to seeing the results that Dr. Brennan Spiegel and the Cedars-Sinai team uncover using the latest technology from appliedVR, Bayer and Samsung.”
“The opioid crisis doesn’t just cost money, it also costs lives,” said Dr. Spiegel, director of Health Services Research at Cedars-Sinai. “We need to find ways to stem the tide without relying entirely on medicines. Health technology, like virtual reality, has tremendous potential to improve outcomes while saving costs, which is why we’re so excited about this collaboration among academia and industry.”
The digital pain-reduction kit to be used in the trial consists of a Samsung Gear VR, powered by Oculus, headset; Samsung GearFit2 wearable; therapeutic pain management content, powered by biosensors provided by appliedVR; and an Aleve Direct Therapy TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) device for those with lower back pain from sore and aching muscles due to strain from exercise and normal household and work activities, provided by Bayer. The kit will measure day-to-day functional status, work productivity and the use of pain medication of participants.
“Recent research we’ve led with appliedVR and Cedars-Sinai have demonstrated that virtual reality reduces pain in hospitalized patients and provides a non-pharmacologic alternative to opiates,” said Dr. David Rhew, chief medical officer and headof Health Care and Fitness for Samsung Electronics America. “This project is exciting and groundbreaking in that it will be the first to evaluate the economic benefits of virtual reality in the setting of workers compensation.”
This partnership is the latest example of Travelers’ focus on finding innovative ways to engage and support injured employees and to help customers maintain a safe workplace and manage workers compensation-related risks. In 2015, Travelers launched its ConciergeClaim Nurse program, which facilitates access to care for injured employees and provides personal assistance from a Travelers nurse to guide them through the workers compensation process. In 2016, the company created the Travelers Early Severity Predictor, a predictive model that identifies the likelihood of an injured employee developing chronic pain so that they can avoid it during recovery and reduce the need to use opioids or other painkillers. Most recently, the company launched a new digital self-service capability that streamlines the workers compensation claim process — MyTravelers for Injured Employees.