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NY to reimbursed use of VR as therapy modality

AgeWell, a managed care organisation located in Lake Success, New York, serving clients with Medicare and Medicaid, has announced that beginning in 2019, they would begin paying for mental health treatment based on virtual reality for members of its institutional special needs plan.

People who live in facilities that provide long-term care are eligible for coverage under the plan.

Amanda Thalmann, associate director of CareWell, the branded name for the institutional special needs plan that would include virtual reality treatment, stressed that the key focus is mental health.

Patients suffering from neurocognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease will have their minds stimulated through the use of virtual reality therapy, which will also help alleviate the negative effects of social isolation, improve communication with distant relatives, and bring patients closer together.

In spite of the possibility of the contract, there are now only around 200 patients who are completely covered, and AgeWell has not committed to providing coverage until the year 2023. The corporation went out and purchased anything from twelve to fifteen headsets, which it then spread throughout its five contracted sites.

Due to the fact that AgeWell utilises virtual reality technology provided by the digital therapeutics firm MyndVR, the company is not sharing any more financial specifics about this relationship.

Medicare will provide coverage for the treatments as they fall under the category of alternative therapies; hence, AgeWell will pay without requiring a particular code. Thalmann recognised that a large number of seniors have initial apprehension, but he said that after the elders get over their fears, they may experience the benefits.

According to Thalmann, it will be quite advantageous for elders’ general well-being and quality of life. She elaborated further, saying that since the residents do not go outside much, the VR technology is something valuable to them as it allows them to explore more.

According to Chris Brickler, co-founder and CEO of MyndVR, over the next 18 months, additional payers may start to cover select, limited uses of virtual reality. This information was provided by Brickler.

Brickler said that currently there is a good bit of impulse for the technology-driven modality of treatment. He referred to a bill that was proposed in Congress the previous year and received backing from members of both parties. If passed, the bill would make it possible for public payers to cover the cost of prescription digital therapeutics. This coverage would allow for the use of virtual reality-based treatments in certain circumstances.

The passage of the bill seems to be a very long way off. According to observers, there will most likely be a continuation of agreements on a smaller scale in the meantime.

Rema Padman, a professor of management science and healthcare informatics at Carnegie Mellon University, said that it is yet unknown how widespread the usage of virtual reality will be in the future. Despite the technology’s promise, the field is still in its infancy.

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