16/06/2021 | BlogPost

Virtual Reality treatment show significant improvement for Chronic Pain Patients

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


We are very excited to share the great results of the Orion Corporation Clinical Trial where Healthware was the key R&D partner creating a Digital Therapeutics solution (DTx) for chronic pain patients.

A novel treatment, a Digital Therapeutics software solution for Chronic Pain (DTxP), using Virtual Reality (VR), has shown statistically significant benefit over passive (placebo) control and standard care interventions for fear of movement, patient clinical global impression of change (PGIC) and quality of life in adult patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP). Results from the pilot study were announced at the IASP 2021 Virtual World Congress On Pain.

Background: Growing opportunities with Virtual Reality

The results from this clinical trial are very positive, and it also gives hope to find a way to bring this solution to the people with chronic pain who need it. In the future we will likely see more of these kinds of solutions being developed, also for other kinds of therapies and treatments.

There is an unmet need for novel therapies in the treatment of chronic pain. The currently available treatments may provide suboptimal efficacy and tolerability to certain patients. Digital therapeutics is a new and rapidly evolving treatment paradigm, also for pain. We are exploring different solutions, such as this DTxP, for the future of pain care, says Sammeli Liikkanen, Director of Digital Medicine at Orion Corporation.

Virtual Reality has found its way to digital health some years ago. Already in 2017 a clinical trial was made, where burn patients received virtual reality based therapy. The results showed reduction of pain, anxiety and stress during dressing changes and also during physical rehabilitation and physiotherapy. There are solutions that help you to relax, distract from acute pain and even treat depression, with virtual reality. Oncomfort has developed a solution to sedate patients using virtual reality. The AppliedVR solution has already supported tens of thousands of pain patients.

The results from various solutions and trials have been encouraging. Not only VR based treatments seem to be able to work, but they have other benefits as well. With digital treatment modality, you can treat more patients compared to traditional therapies, as the limiting factor is less the number of therapists and more the number of virtual reality devices. Since digital treatments do not necessarily require patients to take any medicines e.g. strong pain medication, there are also less treatment related safety issues and side effects.

The role of Virtual Reality in the future of Healthcare 

In the future, the role of virtual reality will grow. Machine learning can help virtual therapies to be more interactive and proactive. This allows for more personalized treatment, and the virtual therapist is available 24/7 for the patient, wherever they are, as long as they have their virtual reality glasses with them. Luckily, the glasses are lightweight, small, comfortable and cordless.

Recent devices have intuitive user interfaces, which makes them easy to use - even for the less technical patients. Technology is evolving, devices are becoming even smaller, the image quality is getting better, and battery life is improving. We’re including more senses. You can already experience the virtual worlds with your sight, with 3D audio environments, seeing your hands and actually being and walking around there. Future device generations could also touch other senses, like scent and temperature. The future experiences will be even more immersive than the current ones.

Patients will receive help with many different problems. In the future, virtual reality based digital therapeutics can help with pain and depression, but also with anxiety, insomnia, phobias and more. Clinical trials also show that patients with serious diseases like Parkinson's Disease could improve their quality of life with virtual reality training and exercises.

There are a growing number of virtual reality use cases outside the direct patient treatments too. Training the healthcare personnel will be much more immersive and efficient with virtual reality. The top surgeons could even operate patients remotely using virtual reality or augmented reality solutions.

Virtual reality can also help with building empathy for doctors, caregivers, and the relatives of patients. With virtual reality, they could experience how it feels like to live with amputation, pick up objects with shaky hands or try to understand what you hear through hearing aids. Understanding increases empathy and drives new innovations and better care.

As the technology advances further, we will see completely new forms of treatments that we cannot even begin to imagine yet.

Orion's digital therapeutics solution for Chronic Pain 

Healthware has been the key partner in designing and developing the digital therapeutics solution for Chronic Pain (DTxP) for Orion Corporation in close collaboration with external scientific advisor, Professor Christopher Eccleston from University of Bath. The Finland based team that has been involved in the project, and has many years of experience working with Virtual Reality as well as Augmented Reality.

The co-operation between Orion and Healthware builds on successful prior collaboration between the two organisations, and the digital therapeutics software solution for Chronic Pain (DTxP) is a perfect example of this partnership. Healthware has been involved from early on, helping Orion to define and design the solutions, using prototypes to steer it to the right direction and finally developing the virtual reality application. Design thinking principles and agile development allowed Healthware to efficiently fine tune the solution, and in the end the results exceeded expectations.

"Successful development of this digital treatment solution has been possible only because of a very multi-disciplined and skilful team that was formed by various different experts. At the end of the day, it took these people, and efficient communication between these very same people to make it. I think that’s one of the best outcomes of this project. The ability to talk the same common language of multiple expert areas as one team, with one joint objective. There has been a huge growth story behind the actual solution", says Sammeli Liikkanen.

We've had a fruitful relationship with Orion for nearly ten years. The DTxP project really is the pinnacle of our cooperation, allowing us to combine our experience with virtual reality, service design, agile development and 3D design into a Software as a Medical Device DTx. Professor Eccleston and the teams here at Healthware and at Orion did an amazing job with tight schedules, which reflects in the results of the trial. Personally I'm excited to be part of a project that has an opportunity to really help so many chronic pain patients in the future, says Petteri Kolehmainen, Managing Director, Nordics & Baltics at Healthware Group.

Virtual reality and augmented reality will have a growing role in the future of healthcare. Digital therapeutics will be utilising both of these technologies more and more in the future, and as the hardware technologies develop, we can only imagine how the digital health solutions of the future will help our well-being.

  • AR - Augmented Reality
  • Digital health revolution
  • Digital Health Transformation
  • Digital Therapies
  • 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.