IKONA, the Startup Using VR to Improve Health Literacy, Starting with Dialysis

CEO and founder Tim Fitzpatrick is leveraging the latest in neuroscience research and VR filmmaking to radically improve health education and patient confidence. 

Kidney disease is a large and growing health challenge, in the United States and globally, thanks in part to rising rates of diabetes and high blood pressure. A full 37 million Americans (15% of the adult population) suffer from kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation, and in 2016, more than half a million people had to be put on dialysis at least 3 times a week just to survive. 

This represents a huge cost to Medicare ($114B in 2016) and efforts are now underway to transition dialysis patients to in-home care, a cheaper and more comfortable alternative. This need for this transition to home became even more acute during the COVID-19 pandemic, but how can resource-strapped dialysis clinics — which currently only spend a few minutes on patient education through paper pamphlets — safely and efficiently transition hundreds of thousands of patients to home care?

Levin is a former CEO of Time Warner

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. Jerry Levin, ex CEO of Time-Warner shares his own personal experience with dialysis. Following a severe injury from a fall, with multiple injuries he eventually was placed on hemodialysis while rehabilitating in a skilled nursing facility.  The experience was an eye-opener and less than optimal for his condition and many others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also provided specific guidelines to address a similar deathtrap: dialysis centers, due to their comparable high volume of older patients (50% of all dialysis patients are over 65) and their history of infections are a very high risk for heightening the spread. More than 725,000 Americans suffer from kidney failure, otherwise known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Of these, at least 500,000 individuals are on dialysis.

Receiving home dialysis treatments in a nursing home is not something that is only available to people like me (former CEOs). It could be provided to any patient who needs it. Unfortunately, right now it’s not available to many, which is mainly a function of the red tape and bureaucracy in healthcare. Our current system is characterized by slow decision making, limited willingness to try new and innovative therapies, and stubborn adherence to the status quo of where and how healthcare should be delivered.

But there is a safer way to administer this lifesaving care, and we must urgently make plans to deliver dialysis within nursing home and long-term care facilities, and further to accelerate the provision of dialysis for those able to do it in their home. We must save our elderly and our broader population from this deadly blind spot.

Say Hello to IKONA, the Startup Using VR to Improve Health Literacy, Starting with Dialysis