8/11/2022 | BlogPost

Building a Digital Therapeutics (DTx) to treat Chronic Pain patients using Virtual Reality (VR) technology

Therese Elg | Marketing & Communications Director Nordics & Baltics, Healthware International


In a webinar held on the 2nd of November, Petteri Kolehmainen, senior member of our Executive Leadership team, and Sammeli Liikkanen, Head of Digital Medicine at Orion Corporation were talking about their experience with building "Rohkea" DTx for pain management and rehabilitation.

Rohkea is a 12 weeks long cognitive behavioural therapy with physiotherapeutical activities to treat chronic back pain by Orion. Healthware, as the key R&D partner, has been supporting Orion to design and develop this novel treatment from the start. The efficacy and safety of the product has been demonstrated in a successful clinical trial.

During the six-week-long trial, patients’ fear of movement had reduced significantly, their quality of life had improved, and perceived impression of change towards better significantly improved.

Chronic pain is a major public health problem.

At a population level, in 2019, back pain alone was the leading global cause of prolonged disability, and conservative estimates predict that 20% of people report disability and distress from untreated pain. This population burden is stable across countries and is growing.

There are pharmacological interventions for chronic pain aimed primarily at analgesia, which have had limited success. Psychological interventions aimed at promoting self-management of pain and re-engagement in valued life activities are effective and have been adopted in guidelines as the minimum standard of care, however, their availability is scarce.

Digital therapeutics (DTx) have emerged as a potential solution to the problem of scaling effective psychological interventions for chronic pain management.

Virtual Reality (VR) technologies generally offer significant opportunities in psychotherapy and, more profoundly, in pain management and rehabilitation. Virtual Reality can enable existing treatments to be offered at scale through automation, but it can also improve the content and impact of both assessment and intervention. Although there are many reports of VR for analgesia and sedation, there are few examples of attempted use in chronic pain.

Orion Corporation wanted to develop a novel virtual reality-based treatment that provides advice and instruction for self-management of adults with chronic back pain who want more valued activity and improved function. Since the start of this project in 2018, Healthware has been helping Orion to design and develop the solution.

Main take-aways from Sammeli:

  • Even though the clinical validation of the efficacy is critical, the user experience, and especially the engagement part of a digital therapeutics (DTx) really needs to be well thought and solid. Otherwise the users will not commit into the treatment program, and the efficacy will plummet.
  • Understanding patients, known as human beings, and other relevant key stakeholders (caregivers, healthcare professionals and payers) is critical in designing and developing a successful DTx.
  • The developing team needs to have a one, commonly agreed language. The clinical, medical and technological experts need to *really* understand each others. And it really helps to keep the team compact enough.
  • You need to move from waterfall process model of developing biological drugs into agile, iterative mind-set. DTx needs to be tested, prototyped and re-invented over and over again, until decommissioned.

Enjoy the video below and if you have questions, want more information or want to book a meeting with us for a demo, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Are you attending SLUSH in Helsinki 17-18.11.2022? If so, why not pop in to our office in Kamppi (Helsinki center) where we are arranging a Slush side event on 17 November, at 16:00 - 19:00!
You will get to try out the Digital Therapeutics (DTx) experience "Rohkea" on Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality (VR) device. Our office is open for testing the experience and a few other VR applications we have developed for the pharmaceutical industry.
You can also have insightful discussions about developing digital therapeutics with our team, as well as the Head of Digital Medicine at Orion Corporation, Sammeli Liikkanen. We'll provide snacks and drinks. The adress is Köydenpunojankatu 13, 00180 Helsinki. Welcome!

The attendance is free but requires registration.

  • Digital health
  • Digital Health Transformation
  • Digital Therapies
  • Innovation
  • Pain Management
  • Patient Journey
  • pharma companies
  • Technology
  • Virtual Reality
Therese Elg

Therese is a Marketing and Communications professional with over 20 years of experience from international IT and technology companies. She has very strong Project Management skills and ability to evaluate market opportunities, develop clear messages and develop strategies and actionable plans. In her former experience she was in charge of Global marketing strategy, Global Internal & external communications projects, Branding, and Business Development. Therese has also acquired experience in Account management in a globally renowned research firm.