An Elizabethtown company that specializes in virtual reality won a Microsoft health award.
BehaVR creates digital wellness programs and digital therapeutics for behavioral and mental health, company CEO Aaron Gani said. It does this by using virtual reality.
“We currently offer programs for addressing chronic pain, combating chronic stress and augmenting addiction recovery programs,” he said. “I founded BehaVR in 2016 in Elizabethtown and our mission was informed by my 12 years at Humana, where I was the chief technology officer.”
The award was one of six health innovation awards Microsoft gives each year to recognize partners who are doing innovated work using technology in improving health across the globe, he said. BehaVR won in the Protect Health Information category.
“We were recognized along with our partners ClearData for our combined approach to securing our cloud-based Dynamic Experience Engine,” Gani said. “Our DXE is the platform that drives what’s happening in each patient’s VR experience in real-time, and those VR experiences are so psychologically and neurologically powerful, it’s vital that we maintain the highest level of security for the algorithms and data that are driving patient experience.”
Gani said using virtual reality applications for medicine isn’t new, noting hundreds of research studies in lab and university settings for decades.
“So we know the VR medium is incredibly powerful because of the way our brains process VR experiences,” he said. “What’s enabling us to build this business and these solutions now are the advances in consumer-grade VR hardware like products from Oculus, Pico, HTC and others, and the cloud-computing infrastructure that lets us create and secure AI-driven experiences that are personalized for each patient, and integrated with other clinical and operational systems in the health care delivery system.”
In using VR in health care, he said, high levels of security, privacy and confidentiality is important. It’s important because this kind of technology is not just managing data, he said, but is “driving digital therapeutic patient experiences in real-time.”
Winning the award was rewarding and affirming for Gani and the company.
“It’s such a rewarding thing to be building a business that has helped many thousands of people improve their health and it’s a nice bonus when you get recognized by your peers and a global leader in technology like Microsoft for your innovative work,” he said. “This kind of recognition gives us a boost that can help us scale our platform and solutions to many more people who need it and we intend to help millions of people around the world, all from our base here in E’town.”
It’s an exciting time to work on behavioral health digital wellness and therapeutics products, he said.
“Unfortunately COVID-19 is only exacerbating these conditions and dramatically increasing the need,” he said. “We at BehaVR are delighted to be working on these problems and contributing to improving the mental health of our fellow citizens.”
He said many are surprised to know this type of company is located in the heartland and not someplace like Silicon Valley, Boston or New York.
“We’re proud to be based here in E’town and Nashville,” he said. “As so much work has transitioned to online channels such as Zoom as we work through the challenge of COVID-19, we think it’s becoming more obvious that many technology companies can be highly virtual and we hope we’re an early indicator of an increasing trend of innovation and venture backed companies being located in the heartland of America.”