The Travelers Companies is part of a new pilot project testing virtual reality and wearable technology to treat pain and better manage workers compensation risks.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Samsung Electronics America, Bayer and appliedVR are also involved in the collaboration.
“Workplace injuries that lead to chronic pain can cause ongoing issues, as an injured employee may mask pain with opioids or other drugs,” Dr. Melissa Burke, national pharmacy director at Travelers, said in prepared remarks. “Identifying new, non-pharmacologic alternatives for pain management can help an injured employee avoid chronic pain, lower the chances that they will develop a dangerous opioid addiction and reduce medical costs.”
The goal of the project is to explore the effectiveness of a digital pain reduction kit using therapeutic virtual reality and wearable technology to help manage pain related to acute orthopedic injuries of the lower back and extremities. Cedars-Sinai’s Center for Outcomes Research and Education and Department of Orthopaedic Surgery will conduct the clinical research project over 16 months. Between 90 and 140 people ages 18-65 will take part in the trial. Project participants hope the trial will show that state-of-the-art technology can help improve outcomes for injured workers.
What does a digital pain reduction kit look like? It includes tech from multiple companies and is designed to measure day-to-day functional status, work productivity and the use of pain medication.
The kit’s components include a Samsung Gear VR headset (with virtual reality tech from Oculus VR); a Samsung GearFit2 wearable; therapeutic pain management content (with biosensors from appliedVR); and an Aleve Direct Therapy transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation device. The Aleve device, from Bayer, is for patients with lower back pain from sore/aching muscles stemming from exercise and normal household/work activities.
Travelers noted it has looked for innovative ways to treat injured employees and manage workers compensation-related risk for some time now.
In 2015, it launched its ConciergeClaim Nurse program, which helps injured employees access care and provides personal assistance from a Travelers nurse to help them through the workers comp process. In 2016, Travelers launched Early Severity Predictor, a predictive model that can calculate how likely an injured employee will develop chronic pain. By doing so, the employee can avoid it during recovery and reduce the need for opioids or other painkillers. Recently, Travelers debuted a digital self-service option that helps streamline the workers comp claim process, dubbed MyTravelers for Injured Employees.