The voices of the anxious and depressed could say a lot – if only someone were listening. Now, a new way to assess mental health using artificial intelligence (AI) and the sound of the patient’s voice can unlock the shackles of depression and lead the way to effective treatment. On the other side of the healthcare equation, training the clinicians of tomorrow can be an expensive proposition involving costly mannequins. A new virtual reality (VR) simulation system solves that problem with a new and novel VR medical simulation system.

These two examples, while quite different, highlight the holistic “yin and yang” aspects of Accenture’s HealthTech Innovation Challenge, which seeks technological solutions capable of touching the hearts and minds of healthcare patients and practitioners alike. The competition supports innovative solutions for improving the ways people access, receive, manage, and finance healthcare in North America.

It brings together top-rated startups and leading healthcare organizations to connect, collaborate and learn to help drive healthcare innovation at scale. This year was a fully virtual experience which challenged us to ask how we might bridge the distance between attendees while being physically at a distance. One way we did this was to allow attendees to virtually connect in the Mirrored World (e.g. digital twins) during portions of the HTIC event via virtual reality headsets, thus participating in a deeply immersive experience.

This year’s applicants focused on four themes. First, improving health “equity” for historically underserved groups, including the needs of women and people in the BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, disabled, and homeless populations. Second, supporting care in the home, including solutions for virtual specialty consults, hospital-at-home programs, remote patient monitoring, and digital therapeutics. Third, meeting women’s health needs across life stages, from reproductive health to menopause, reflecting the new emphasis the health industry has begun to place on women’s medical needs. And fourth, helping people improve their mental health and wellbeing.

Selected finalists presented their solutions to an exclusive panel of judges comprised of senior executives from globally recognized health companies and venture capital firms. The panel selected champions based on their solution’s innovativeness, design quality, potential impact on patient outcomes, scalability, and effectiveness as a disruptive business model.

Innovation Champion, Ellipsis Health: Using the healing power of the patient’s voice

Ellipsis Health pioneered an integrated behavioral health solution that uses artificial intelligence and the power of voice, the words people say, and how they say them, to detect, measure and manage symptoms of anxiety and depression. It then uses this information to help time-strapped healthcare providers and payers identify high-risk populations – facilitating scalable behavioral health screening and longitudinal monitoring of symptoms and treatment efficacy.

Top Innovator, SimX: Training medical professionals using virtual reality

SimX brings virtual and augmented reality to medical simulation training. The product is the first comprehensive professional-grade VR medical simulation system to train physicians, nurses, and other allied health professionals. The platform allows medical teams to replace expensive mannequins with incredibly flexible simulated patients. The VR simulations can include any patient, tool, or environment. Users can set them up in less than five minutes and can access them anywhere; even remotely with multiplayer. SimX can also develop custom cases in a matter of weeks.

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Thanks to a superb group of contestants

The contestants for the HealthTech Innovation Challenge in 2021 all represented extraordinary examples of how technology can inform and improve healthcare, reach underserved patient populations, and provide the personalized healing touch that will undoubtedly exemplify the healthcare of tomorrow. The six other entries were:

  • Angle Health – New health plan
  • Axle Health – Care at home
  • Donisi Health (Israeli) – Care anywhere (e.g., pulmonary remote patient monitoring)
  • OmCare – Care at home
  • Phyxable (Canada) – Pain control physiotherapy
  • Spora Health – New care model

A keynote in virtual reality

Participants did not only get to experience virtual reality to connect with each other they also had the opportunity to learn the emerging clinical applications of VR through a keynote presentation. The keynote presentation, “VRx: How Virtual Therapeutics Will Revolutionize Medicine,” was presented by Dr. Brennan Spiegel, director of health services research for Cedars-Sinai Health System and founding director of the Cedars-Sinai Master’s Degree Program in Health Delivery Science. His Cedars-Sinai team has developed one of the largest and most widely documented medical VR programs, and his work has helped create a new field of medicine called Medical Extended Reality, or “MXR.” With MXR, doctors use immersive technologies to treat conditions ranging from pain to anxiety and depression, to dementia. Dr. Spiegel has spearheaded efforts to demonstrate to healthcare leaders that VR has applications that extend far beyond gaming and into healthcare and has proposed adding VR to the physician’s medical bag of pharmaceuticals and other standard therapies and treatments.


I’d like to thank everyone involved in making the HealthTech Innovation Challenge such a success this year. From the quality and diversity of the entrants to the diligence, experience of the judges and expertise of the keynote speaker, this year’s challenge sets a true benchmark for future excellence and virtual events in the Mirrored World.

Brian Kalis

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy Lead, Health

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