Case Study

BehaVR

BehaVR was founded with the mission to educate, motivate, and activate people to achieve their best health. We are facing a serious crisis in the U.S.: Behavioral health is not being addressed at scale, which is affecting both Americans’ physical and mental health and the economy (chronic disease is the cause of 85% of our unsustainable $3.5T annual spending on healthcare). BehaVR is tackling this crisis head on by addressing and improving health through its virtual reality (VR) platform.

The company’s platforms are rooted firmly in neuroscience, building stress resilience and emotional regulation skills by positively activating brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control. Doing so over time equips individuals to make healthier choices, when combined with appropriate educational and motivational content inside the VR experiences.

With its dynamic and personalized experiences, BehaVR drives better health and, as a result, reduces costs related to chronic health issues.

“In my previous work as Chief Technology Officer at Humana, our focus was on getting patients happy and healthy. That’s a big goal to take on; we focused a lot of resources on it then, and the company continues to make it a priority today,” said Aaron Gani, Founder and CEO of BehaVR. “I’ve always been interested in solving big problems, so when I left to start BehaVR, I wanted to solve how to not only get patients healthy, but also how to keep them healthy by addressing some of the issues that lead to chronic disease. There’s $3.5 trillion spent on healthcare each year in the U.S., and the majority of that it is spent addressing chronic disease. It’s eating the economy; it is simply not sustainable to keep throwing money at it. Worse, people are suffering. We think thoughtfully designed, evidence-based VR programs can help.”

Gani founded BehaVR three years ago when he realized consumer-grade Virtual Reality (VR) was about to become available and could be the active ingredient in data-driven, personalized digital health programs. “I felt like something had to be done to get to the core issue of people’s motivations and how we manage our selves. VR has incredible psychological power which can play a huge role in managing health and behavior.”

BehaVR is leaning into the last two decades of medical VR research and extending that work with its own research partners. Research has indicated positive results in treating health issues such as addictions, stress-related diseases, fibromyalgia and chronic pain. Additionally, behavioral and emotional changes – which VR is uniquely positioned to deliver – can help reduce the skyrocketing costs of chronic disease in the US.

Knowing how to manage stress effectively, for example, is important to ongoing health and well-being. “Our brains use inputs from our senses to maintain a model, or simulation, of our current state – where we are, how we feel, what we’re doing, whether we’re comfortable, safe or in danger, etc.,” said Gani. “When we replace or ‘hijack’ those sensory inputs using VR, we create a new reality for our brain in those moments – we create experiences. By designing experiences that elicit emotional and physiological responses, and teaching concepts through engaged and embodied learning, we have incredible power to impart new insights and mental models.”

BehaVR is creating personalized experiences for their patients using biometrics and data-driven algorithms. The platform delivers programs that focus on improving behavioral health:

  • BehaVR Balance programs equip patients with the understanding and stress resilience skills they need to reduce and reverse the harmful effects of chronic stress and anxiety.
  • BehaVR Thrive programs help break the bad habits and lifestyle choices that lead to chronic disease by creating experiences that educate and elicit emotional and physiological responses in patients, enabling a learning and feedback loop of positive change. There are also Thrive programs that teach patients how their nervous system works, so they can manage and minimize chronic pain more effectively, and programs that help recovering addicts build the skills they need to get and stay on the path to recovery
The Challenge

In its early stages as a company, BehaVR chose to build its application in the Microsoft Azure cloud due to both the technologies they offer in the market, as well as the value for the price. While Gani’s team was adept with cloud computing, machine learning, and analytics, its size limited the scope of what they could focus on. They managed the security and compliance on their own, but knew that would not suffice once they had PHI in their platform. Gani had ClearDATA in mind, as he was looking for a partner with a core focus of managing healthcare and PHI workloads in the cloud, so the BehaVR team could focus on creating the right experiences to bring patients back to wellness. “Coming from a large enterprise, I knew the burden of security and compliance on an organization and I knew I would absolutely engage with ClearDATA to take this on,” said Gani. He knew if he tried to manage compliance and security in-house, it would not only be too slow and painful to find the talent and get the resources in place, but it would not be an economically viable model.

The Solution

It was not just ClearDATA’s security and compliance expertise that appealed to Gani. “ClearDATA has a broader belief about innovation: their core focus is to manage HIPAA workloads [PHI] in the cloud—and they are constantly innovating on how they do that so companies like mine can benefit from their innovation.”

ClearDATA manages the compliance and security aspects of Azure services, which lets the BehaVR development team focus on which Azure technologies will help them bring the most benefit from emerging technologies. BehaVR leverages Speech to Text service from Azure and conducts real-time sentiment analysis using Azure AI.  The development team can leverage these services in an easy and fast manner—not just because of the usability and capabilities of Azure as one of the public cloud leaders, but also because ClearDATA configures the necessary compliance controls upfront—giving the development team direct access to the Azure console and eliminating the burden of the BehaVR development team having to navigate and manage compliance on its own. This lets the BehaVR team develop and deploy faster with confidence knowing compliance is handled by the HITRUST certified expert, ClearDATA. The result for BehaVR is a platform with interoperability built in, differentiating them in the market as they lead a convergence of data, cloud computing, analytics, machine learning, AI and VR. They’re not just bringing VR to healthcare; the BehaVR platform is driven algorithmically, providing a psychologically powerful solution that improves patient health and happiness while reducing the likelihood of escalating chronic disease.

The ClearDATA Compliance Dashboard provides auditable proof that BehaVR can access instantly and use should a customer or prospect have questions. They can show a snapshot of the company’s compliance status and prove their compliance posture over time with trend reports. This saves them time from having to build reports manually should someone ask, and builds the internal team’s focus and confidence, knowing they have auditable proof on-demand.

BehaVR also completed a HIPAA Security Risk Assessment (SRA) with ClearDATA in an effort to improve its own security best practices in preparation for the company’s growth. The SRA provided significant savings in both time and resources, giving more insight into where BehaVR needed to improve their security behaviors beyond just the cloud. Because the SRA assesses not only technical but also physical and administrative safeguards, BehaVR received a comprehensive risk remediation road map. “ClearDATA brings a lot to the table in terms of structure and process,” said Gani. “Both their expertise around compliance and the innovation they bring to that realm lets us continue to leverage the latest technologies like VR and machine learning in order to improve behavioral health and help make an impact in people’s lives today.”

Figure 1: Preview of Mindfulness Room from BehaVR Platform

Figure 2: Preview of Body Breathing from BehaVR Platform

Figure 3: Preview of PNE Mindfulness Selection from BehaVR Platform

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