Almost two years ago, a team of University of Washington students won the university’s TechSandbox competition with a virtual reality game designed to help patients with neurological damage recover from injuries.
In December of 2015, team members Lars Crawford, Brian Mogen, and Tyler Libey spun their startup — MultiModal Health — out of the University of Washington, and have since begun pilot projects in clinics around Seattle.
The startup will be rolling out vHAB, the product’s official name, over the coming weeks. They will also be presenting vHAB at the American Occupational Therapy conference this April, where they will be looking for more potential partners.
The inspiration behind vHAB? Get patients more engaged with their occupational therapy.
The program is fairly simple.
Patients play video games using Leap Motion sensors on Myo armbands, which sense muscle activity. Patients and their physicians can track their progress through data captured by the program.
As patients play games and score points, vHAB documents their progress. “It collects data like how their movements are going, how many points they get, and the time it takes,” Crawford said.
“We hope we can use this data to help physicians see how patients are progressing over time, and for patients to keep track of their progress.”
Leap Motion sensors can track a patient’s movement down to the millimeter allowing the game to record subtle movements in the hand.
Developments in virtual reality tech are lowering the cost of sensors, making vHAB more affordable for patients, said Crawford
The team — which won third place in the University of Washington’s Health Innovation Challenge last week — is conducting several pilot projects in clinics around Seattle, Crawford said. Those include Harborview Medical Center, which has been testing the system for the past 6 months. They also hope to introduce the service to the UW’s Orthopedic Hand Clinic.
The goal is to add more partner clinics in the coming months, with those clinics helping the team fine-tune the software.
“We do have connections with the University still, which are very strong,” said Crawford, adding that they they are developing relationships with other stand-alone therapy clinics.
While the in-clinic trials are going well, the team ran into a different issue with vHAB’s system. Their original setup is costly and only usable in clinics themselves, limiting how many patients can use it.
“The ultimate goal of this product was to have patients work on it at home, and see advancement on their own treatment,” Crawford said. “We’ve been pursuing creating a downloadable version of the software that’s much cheaper, and also supports patients by having an in-home version.”
MultiModal’s focus on tools that keep patients invested, and provide data for physicians, is part of a larger trend in the healthcare tech industry. Several other tech firms, including Seattle startup Wellpepper, are using tech to change how we think about healthcare.
“There’s lots of different pushes right now to keep patients engaged with their therapy,” said Crawford, adding that there are many ways to connect patients with their physicians.
“We’re trying to help the healthcare industry move from experience based care to evidence based care,” Crawford said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated and corrected since it was first published.