Our guest for today’s episode of Lessons Learned is Alex Theodorou, Founder of Ocutherapy. Alex is a cognitive science researcher with a MSc in Cognitive Science of Language and has worked as a rehabilitation therapist at the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario (NRIO). Ocutherapy offers virtual reality guided rehabilitation, for patients with brain injuries and offers a wide variety of interactive therapeutic tasks. Ocutherapy is simple to use and is targeted for each and every patient, as it learns to identify and better assist users to interact with their environment. We had the opportunity to sit down with Alex and discuss innovation in healthcare. To access the full podcast, click HERE.
Lesson 1: What is Virtual Reality and How is it Useful for Rehabilitation?
Alex says that virtual reality is essentially taking a computer simulation which can generate any environment and being able to interact with it, as if it were real. By using controllers or sensors that are able to measure many variables such as skin response and heart rate, users are able to immerse themselves completely in any environment. With Ocutherapy, the goal is to create a personalized treatment plan for patients that have brain injuries and being able to develop customized environments for them. By utilizing virtual reality, Alex is able to understand the physical and cognitive limitations that patients may present with and is able to provide healthcare professionals with augmented information about patient’s abilities.
Lesson 2: How Can Ocutherapy Benefit Physiotherapists?
Physiotherapy is a wonderful profession, however there are limitations in both resources and the time that physiotherapists are able to spend with patients. With Ocutherapy, Alex’s goal is to create an environment where physiotherapists can utilize functional and real-world tasks to monitor the abilities of patients to complete tasks. Ocutherapy further allows physiotherapists to examine the quality of a movement by analyzing the accuracy and precision of movement and providing objective feedback for use. In addition, by being able to manage the information acquired from a patient in a clear and concise way, physiotherapists will be able to track patient progress and develop further customized treatment plans.
Lesson 3: How Can Clinic Owners Incorporate Virtual Reality?
Ocutherapy is currently working towards its class 2 medical device status, which Alex explains is a means to legitimize the product so it is no longer seen as a game, but as usable tool for clinicians. For its implementation, Ocutherapy is still in its early stages of research and development but from Alex’s observations so far, clinicians would be able to take the device, receive coaching and then utilize it. It is not a one size fits all prescription, so each clinic owner could find their own specific use for Ocutherapy. However, this process occurs with support from Alex, as his team attempts to embed virtual reality within a clinic’s existing infrastructure and utilize it to identify any gaps in the services provided.
Lesson 4: Financial Barriers to Using Virtual Reality
Given that virtual reality is a relatively new and growing field, utilizing the technology tends to be a fairly expensive venture. Alex’s goal is to have Ocutherapy subsidized in some capacity and ideally to have all of it subsidized. However, this an ongoing discussion between the Canadian government and representatives from different agencies such as insurance companies. The primary concern with the high cost is that if the technology is proven to be beneficial for patients but they’re unable to afford it, the overall quality of their care diminishes rapidly. After all, lacking the right tools for a job can make it a relatively straightforward process lengthy and arduous. Alex acknowledges that people need options and alternatives during their treatment which is why he is working hard to lobby for the subsidization of virtual reality software, so that it becomes accessible to all that need it.
These were some of the great lessons we learned from Alex, the full podcast can be found by clicking HERE.