University of California, San Francisco S.O.L.V.E. Health Tech and AppliedVR Publish Research Assessing Virtual Reality Readiness for Treating Chronic Pain in Safety-Net Settings

Qualitative research finds VR intervention to be useful, scalable and appealing alternative to existing pain management approaches for Medicaid populations, but reimbursement challenges represent key barrier

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#AppliedVRAppliedVR, a pioneer advancing the next generation of digital medicine, and S.O.L.V.E. Health Tech, a health equity incubation partner, embedded within the University of California, San Francisco, today announced results from a collaborative research project that identifies barriers and facilitators to using virtual reality (VR) for pain management in vulnerable populations such as Medicaid patients.

Virtual reality provides an immersive experience that can improve the lives of people experiencing chronic pain. Users follow a science-backed curriculum of immersive VR programming to reduce their chronic pain and help them learn skills for managing pain in the real world.

Overall, the AppliedVR and UCSF research found that providers treating underserved populations can integrate VR as a scalable, low-risk alternative for treating chronic pain, with potential for high patient satisfaction and engagement.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, included interviews with current VR users and non-users based in academic, community, and safety-net health systems (n=15), using the clinically proven VR platform from AppliedVR.

The research also provided critical insight into the issues that the healthcare industry must address in order to get the latest in digital medicines, like VR, into the hands of less-served and more-diverse patient populations. Many technology implementation challenges are more pronounced in under-resourced health systems.

“There is a tremendous unmet need in the U.S. to deliver evidence-based digital therapeutics to the broader population, and virtual reality for pain management holds significant interest for front-line pain management clinicians and leadership in safety-net health settings,” said Urmimala Sarkar, MD, MPH, UCSF Professor of Medicine and co-founder of S.O.L.V.E. Health Tech. “But, it will require collaboration across industries to overcome the hurdles that stand in the way of wider adoption, including commitments from payers for more reimbursement and adapted content that tailors to the needs of diverse populations.”

In the UCSF-AppliedVR research, both users and non-users identified lack of reimbursement for VR as one of the biggest challenges for adoption. Current users cited positive patient feedback, but safety-net stakeholders indicated that existing VR content may need to be more relevant or appealing to a more diverse patient population.

Additionally, all respondents cited the challenge of integrating and maintaining VR in current pain management workflows across a range of clinical settings, but this adoption challenge is particularly acute in safety-net settings due to resource and staffing constraints.

The UCSF and AppliedVR study represents one of the first that evaluates how providers that care for vulnerable populations, like Medicaid beneficiaries, could integrate VR into pain management approaches. Moving forward, Dr. Sarkar plans to test VR’s usability for patients who are often underrepresented in clinical trials

“Our goal is to make VR the standard of care in pain management for everyone, and research like this is critical to understanding how we can create more usable, more affordable and more equitable treatment programs,” said Josh Sackman, president and co-founder of AppliedVR. “The COVID-19 pandemic put on full display the health inequities that have existed in our country for years, so digital medicine shouldn’t be the latest innovation to fall into the same trap. What good does billions of investment dollars flowing into digital health do if very little of it reaches the people who need it most?”

As the most evidence-based provider of VR in healthcare, AppliedVR is committed to building a broader body of evidence that demonstrates VR can both reduce chronic pain and lower healthcare costs. The company recently received breakthrough device designation from the FDA for its EaseVRx solution. It is engaged in multiple studies with payers to determine reimbursement.

About AppliedVR

AppliedVR is pioneering the next generation of digital medicines to deliver safe and effective virtual reality therapeutics (VRx) that address unmet needs and improve clinical outcomes for patients with serious health conditions. Its evidence-based, non-invasive treatments immerse and engage patients to help drive measurable clinical outcomes. As the most widely used and deeply researched therapeutic VR platform, AppliedVR is the first company to make VR therapeutics widely available in clinical care, having immersed more than 60,000 patients in more than 200 hospitals. AppliedVR has established world-class research and commercial partnerships and continues to build the infrastructure to accelerate the mass adoption of VRx. To learn more about AppliedVR, Inc., visit

About UCSF

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is exclusively focused on the health sciences and is dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes UCSF Health, which comprises three top-ranked hospitals, as well as affiliations throughout the Bay Area. Learn more at, or see our Fact Sheet.


Sam Moore

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