An emerging class of techceuticals is pressing play on the future of health management. Doctors are prescribing video games and virtual reality (VR) to treat conditions like brain fog, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Could video games help cure cognitive dysfunction? Some doctors think so. In April 2021, digital therapeutic company Akili Interactive partnered with Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center to evaluate a video game as a treatment for COVID-19 patients experiencing brain fog.

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EndeavorRX by Akili Interactive
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The game—EndeavorRX by Akili Interactive—was initially created to treat ADHD in children. It made history in June 2020 as the first ever prescription-strength video game approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). After following the recommended dosage of 25 minutes of play per day, five days per week for one month, one in three kids treated “no longer had a measurable attention deficit on at least one measure of objective attention,” Akili shared.

VR could be “your new physical therapist,” the New York Times wrote in April. The article cites XRHealth, which launched the first VR telehealth clinic offering VR therapy to patients in 2020.

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The VR program at Cedars-Sinai, led by Brennan Spiegel. Image courtesy of YouTube

VR has a wide range of proven benefits: it can help lower blood pressure, treat eating disorders and obesity, combat anxiety, cure PTSD and ease the pain of childbirth. In his book, “VRx: How Virtual Therapeutics Will Revolutionize Medicine,” published in October 2020, author Brennan Spiegel—who is also the director of one of the largest therapeutic VR programs in the world at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles—makes the case for a virtualized future of medicine. VR has “an uncanny ability to diminish pain, steady nerves, and boost mental health—all without drugs and their unwanted side effects,” he writes.

In the near future, Spiegel hopes to see “VR pharmacies” staffed with “virtualists” who administer targeted doses of VR to treat specific maladies.

Michael Phillips Moskowitz, digital nutritionist and founder and CEO of AeBeZe Labs, also predicts that the future of medicine lies in gamified technology. Digital content has “tremendous curative potential,” he tells Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. “Digital therapeutics are going to be the next emerging vertical in pharmaceuticals,” he predicts. Expect to see more prescription content and digitally administered medication.

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