Houston Business Journal: “Houston health tech company uses virtual reality to help cancer patients”
Diane Jooris worked for several years as a volunteer assisting medical patients with stress and anxiety around their care, including two family members. She saw how patients were given medicine to help with anxiety and realized there was a lack of psychological resources to help them get through treatments.
“My idea is to provide tools for patients during the whole medical journey,” Jooris said.
That idea is the basis for OnComfort Inc., a health tech company that gives patients access to virtual reality systems as an immersive distraction from a patient’s anxiety and pain around their cancer treatment. Jooris co-founded the company with Joowon Kim, a lecturer at the University of Houston and the Art Institute of Houston, as well as a previous founder of a virtual-reality game company.
OnComfort’s virtual reality combined with an audio component helps people forget they’re undergoing stressful and sometimes painful treatment. Currently, it’s doing pilot programs with hospitals around the world to validate its technology and is in conversations with at least one Houston-area system to bring the programs here. It recently set up shop at the new JLabs @ TMC.
OnComfort is currently funded by friends and family. The company plans to have operating revenue within the year, Jooris said.
The concept behind OnComfort can be applied for a broad array of diseases, but Jooris said the company is going to focus on cancer first.
“Cancer is a huge burden from a psychological point of view, and if we can prove this for cancer first, we can apply it to any medical journey,” Jooris said.
The company uses the Samsung Gear VR as the headset for the console mainly because of its portability. Other virtual reality systems like Google’s Cardboard or the Oculus Rift didn’t fit the model because they were either too flimsy or required too much equipment. The VR headset will have to be used by doctors and medical teams, so it needs to be an easy tool to implement in the patient’s treatment, Jooris said.
“We wanted people to have a plug-and-play solution,” she added.