GR startup works to ease pain with virtual reality

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When it comes to pain management, some medical professionals say escaping reality for a few minutes can be beneficial. A Grand Rapids man agrees, which is why he’s working to bring virtual reality to West Michigan hospitals.

“I’ve always been passionate about the health care industry,” Yakem Kurban, founder of Diversion Health VR, told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday.

Kurban is fusing his background in medicine and technology to bring patients out of discomfort and into a virtual reality of their choice. To do that, the patients will wear a special pair of VR goggles.

“One experience we have is we take a patient underwater and they’re watching a sea of life,” Kurban said. “It’s both calming and an incredible experience for the patient.”

VR may help several patients escape from their room for a while, and doctors said it can also help them escape from their long-term pain.

“The goal is to change a person’s perception of their reality, their external circumstances or environment to make pain more tolerable,” Dr. Josh Sunderman, vice president and physician at Javery Pain Institute, said.

While that may sound impossible, Suderman explained that pain is much more than a physical feeling. He said one’s environment is a contributing factor.

“The way we experience pain is not defined by your MRI or your lab value,” Sunderman said. “It’s your experiences in life that lead to that experience with pain.”

Though it looks promising, experts said the connection between VR and pain management is still being researched. That might explain why officials said this type of therapy isn’t available in places like Spectrum Health or Metro Health.

“We may get there some day,” Sunderman said.

In the meantime, Kurban said he’ll keep working until every West Michigan hospital uses VR.

“I know technology is powerful and I’ve seen it,” Kurban said. “I’ve seen it change lives.”

Kerban said he plans to use his health care business to contract with several hospitals. He hopes to roll out the trial phase of his VR goggles in the next few years.

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