Virtual Reality Gains Traction in Mental Health Care

Cade Metz, NYTimes:

Backed by the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, Limbix is less than a year old. The creators of its new service, including its chief executive and co-founder, Benjamin Lewis, worked in the seminal virtual reality efforts at Google and Facebook.

The hardware and software they are working with is still very young, but Limbix builds on more than two decades of research and clinical trials involving virtual reality and exposure therapy. At a time when much-hyped headsets like the Daydream and Facebook’s Oculus are still struggling to find a wide audience in the world of gaming — let alone other markets — psychology is an area where technology and medical experts believe this technology can be a benefit.

As far back as the mid-1990s, clinical trials showed that this kind of technology could help treat phobias and other conditions, like post-traumatic stress disorder.

VR is gaining steam in the medical community, amongst mental health professionals and as a supplement to medication-based treatment. Early results are incredibly promising; adapting proven therapy techniques to virtual reality seems to be an obvious starting point with huge upside. The trick will be getting so-called digital medicine approved as a legit form of care by regulators and insurance companies.

Until health care providers are able to bill insurers for VR-based treatments, so-called digital medicine will only be a option for those with deep pockets and/or access to practitioners willing to treat people for free.