Are virtual reality health games the next big money maker?

Will insurance companies cover virtual reality health games? In this clip from “The Virtual Opportunities Show” on Motley Fool live, recorded on March 15Motley Fool contributors Travis Hoium and Jose Najarro discuss the opportunity, as well as the challenges, of leveraging virtual reality in healthcare.

Travis Houm: One thing in virtual reality that is widely known to have a huge impact is medical apps. The question is, how in the world do you make money on it? Because it’s not a line item for insurance companies, so there’s really no way to pay for it, but the stories out there are crazy. We worked with a therapy place here locally that had stories. They were just testing virtual reality. They had a guy who had a map bringing stuff and just trying stuff. There was a patient who was in so much pain and could only stand for 30 seconds. Well they put her in fruit ninja and she played for about two minutes standing up and didn’t even know because time passes differently. Your body interacts differently. You can think of range of motion. My grandfather had surgery and he has to do those armbands over the door. Instead of doing that, why isn’t it a game where they try to click balls to the beat of music or something, and you inadvertently do exercises that help your medical recovery? I’m not surprised there’s a lot of activity in there. The question I have going forward for these businesses is, are you going to be able to make it a sustainable business somehow? Because that’s really the problem in the medical field, who pays the bills? I say this because I wish there had been a better answer, but right now it’s the insurance companies and the government has a role to play in that as well. But, it’s really a big hurdle. I’m happy to see companies getting investment and investing time and energy to build these things.

Jose Najarro: If I could jump in very quickly, I think one of the biggest changes would also be to the generations that are going to use it. For example, for my grandmother right now, it would be very difficult for me to give her my phone to play. She probably wouldn’t know what to do with it. But maybe, for example, when my parents become grandparents, they’ve already been into this technology trend that will make it easier for them to be open to this ability to use some form of gaming processing or just some form of technology like this for health benefits.

Hoium: I will say one thing, and this is from personal experience. Virtual reality is one thing and augmented reality will be the same. If the experiment is designed correctly, it doesn’t matter how old you are. We had experimented with putting people over 100 years old in VR headsets. It’s just amazing. A lot of times the grandparents would come in and think they were bringing their kids and we tricked the grandparents into doing something and they were like, ‘I thought I was bringing the kids here for fun’ , but they broke up. It’s something that will be interesting to see because I think there are apps where you’re right, Jose, my grandma couldn’t use the phone the way my son did. But, she could do therapeutic or mental health things with VR if the experience is designed properly. It’s easier said than done. The opportunity is there, and it could be really exciting for this space.


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