10/07/2020 | BlogPost

Music as Medicine? Signs Pointing to Yes

Kristin Milburn | CMO & MD, Publications, Events & Digital Health Ecosystem


It appears that "music as medicine" is having a moment.

From classical musicians playing for patients in hospitals, to the first FDA breakthrough designation for a music therapy solution, an in-depth report on the power of music on brain health and the launch of HealthTunes - the first solution designed to deliver therapeutic playlists - music as a healing modality seems to be catching on.

As part of our mission at Healthware, we are constantly scouting the field for new and innovative solutions to help solve various health challenges. One challenge that was clear prior to Covid-19, and made even more pronounced with the global pandemic and resulting lock-downs, is the impact of stress, anxiety and lack of sleep on chronic health conditions. There are many solutions in this crowded field leveraging modalities like mindfulness, meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy and positive psychology like Calm, Headspace, Happify and AI powered chat-bots like Wysa and Woebot.

One start-up we’re helping accelerate as part of our Healthware Ventures portfolio provides an alternative approach, leveraging music as medicine.

HealthTunes is a streaming digital pharmacy that leverages binaural beats and isochronic tones, to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and help users relax. The proprietary algorithm pairs beats and tones with various musical genres to help address a variety of conditions. What’s unique about HealthTunes, besides getting a health benefit by doing something most people find pleasurable, listening to music, is that it is a passive modality, making it easier to adopt as a daily habit. As I sit to write this, after yet another stressful day working from home (that never seems to have a beginning or ending), with two restless kids, in a small NYC apartment, I’m listening to a jazz playlist for stress relief, with songs from Jazz greats like Frank Sinatra (New York, New York!), Thelonious Monk and Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong.

The Global Council on Brain Health, a collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars and policy experts from around the world, recently published a comprehensive report entitled, "Music on Our Minds: The Rich Potential of Music to Promote Brain Health and Mental Well-Being". The AARP brought the GCBH together to offer advice on what older adults could do to improve their brain health as they age. They dig into the current evidence demonstrating how music influences brain health. While the evidence/science is still developing, the GCBH makes clear that "music is a powerful force that can improve mental health and well-being”. As noted in the report, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with help from the National Endowment for the Arts, is awarding 20 million dollars over 5 years to support research into music’s benefits for a wide range of medical disorders, with studies exploring things like the impact of music on gait, memory and immune function to name a few.

MedRhythms, a digital therapeutic that combines sensors, music and software, just a few weeks ago received a breakthrough device designation from the FDA for its novel, patented solution that helps patients treat gait issues following a stroke. Long-term persistent walking deficits are a common problem following a stroke and can decrease quality of life and increase the likelihood of a fall. The FDA Breakthrough Device program is designed to help get solutions out to patients in a timely fashion for life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating diseases or conditions.

We’re excited to see how this nascent field of music as medicine begins to grow, and invite you to explore the beta version of HealthTunes available today in the iOS app store and let us know what you think.
If you’re interested in exploring a potential partnership or study together with HealthTunes, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m now starting to wind down for the night listening to some ambient sounds from Brian Eno, and look forward to sleeping like a baby and waking up ready to attack a new day. The world just feels a little brighter and happier with music to soothe our souls and now, also, potentially improve our health.

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Chatbot
  • Digital health
  • Digital Health Transformation
  • Digital Therapies
  • Innovation
  • Music
Kristin Milburn

A 20+ year veteran of consulting and digital marketing, Kristin Milburn’s experience has had a consistent focus on healthcare and technology and the intersection of the two. She is a strategic and innovative thinker, who has held leadership roles in strategy/planning and client engagement at various digital firms with numerous Fortune 100 pharmaceutical and technology clients.
Kristin is now the Managing Director of Healthware Labs. Healthware Labs is our innovation consultancy helping our clients navigate and innovate within the everchanging world of digital health, remote patient monitoring, telemedicine, digital therapeutics and beyond.