Stumbling VR finds a second home in rehab

Virtual reality (VR) is often seen as an answer in search of a problem. This has never been easier than Meta’s recent metaverse stumble, where the company has been sold for over two-thirds of its stock value at the time of writing. For a technology that has always been thought of in its ability to be a game-changer, it seems like it might be doomed. However, with Penumbra recently announcing its REAL-y Virtual Reality platform, VR may be getting a second wind in the entertainment sector…including video games.

Last Tuesday, Penumbra announced the world’s first free VR rehab solution, with full body rehabilitation capabilities. GlobalData estimates that there are approximately 52 million rehab patients in the US, which means that many VR patients will grow to accommodate. In addition, GlobalData expects that the VR market will grow to a heady $ 80 billion by 2030. If the REAL-y platform can prove its value, Penumbra can capture a large part of this market. But how does it work? Penumbra executive VP and GM Gita Barry was quoted as saying: “Two of the biggest challenges in restructuring are managing patient tolerance and unemployment.” In ‘gamifying’ therapy, patients are expected to engage and complete their exercise.

It remains to be seen whether this gamble will pay off or not, as the market does not yet have the software and software ecosystem to support the REAL-y system. Things are good though; if the REAL-y system proves that it can overcome the relational and motivational problems that have plagued the field of physiotherapy, it may begin to see more and more participation. Another important question is the salary status of these workers. In the US, reimbursement is strictly controlled if a device is taken by the health care industry, because it cuts the cost to the consumer. In order to secure payment, Penumbra must verify the value of its device.

However, GlobalData believes that Penumbra and the ‘VR as an editing tool’ market have many tails to be excited about. The proportion of the elderly continues to grow, as does the need for reform. Because these patients are more wealthy than their younger counterparts, the corrections industry can expect to see more and more wealthy patients in the coming years. Also, the growing acceptance of apps and devices like drugs means that these devices are becoming more common. This could strengthen the FDA’s decision to approve them for a new payment status, as was done with telehealth programs during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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