The Future of Medicine: Music

SingFit Wins the University of Southern California’s Skullcandy Body Computing SLAM

At the Eighth Annual University of Southern California Body Computing Conference, Los-Angeles-based health-tech startup Musical Health Technologies won the Skullcandy Body Computing SLAM for their mobile SingFit technology (available on iTunes). The challenge, which drew international entries, is designed to discover the newest advances in combining sensing technologies with music to improve the health of millions of people. SingFit is first-of-its kind mobile technology, which digitizes the evidence-based music therapy practice of lyric prompting. Designed by a team of certified music therapists, SingFit was chosen the winner of the $10,000 prize by a panel of conference VIPs.

The advent of cutting-edge imaging and biometric technology has lead to a new body of science from top research labs, including Harvard Medical School, McGill University and the National Institutes of Health. This research demonstrates that regular singing can have profound health benefits for people with autism, dementia, chronic respiratory disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression and a host of other hard-to-treat and costly health conditions.

Musical Health Technologies’ first professional product, SingFit PRIME, was designed to increase the health and quality of life for people with dementia by training professional caregivers and supplying them with technology and tools. Currently administered in more than 60 senior-living communities, staffers report that residents with dementia experience elevated mood, decreased agitation and increased quality of life when they participate in three SingFit PRIME group sessions a week.

“When we launched the company, we wanted to create a product that could have an immediate, transformative impact on the lives of people who use it,” says Musical Health Technologies co-founder and CEO Rachel Francine. “Because of the clinical experiences of the team, we were confident that we could achieve that for people with dementia.”

“For the Body Computing Conference,” Francine continues, “we were able to project into the future and think about how having massive amounts of data collected by sensors would allow us not only to distribute music as medicine, but highly personalize it by using each individual’s medical data combined with preferred music to create their unique treatment plan.”

During the competition presentation, Andy Tubman, MHT’s co-founder and Chief of Therapeutics & Music, illustrated how that future might look by telling the story of Kevin, a patient who suffered a traumatic brain injury. “Kevin might already be using SingFit as part of his speech therapy with his treatment team,” the certified music therapist explained. “But along with TBI, often comes trouble managing mood.”

Tubman asked the audience to imagine a future where Kevin’s bio-sensing headphones report that his stress level is high. “Right now, sensing, collecting and reporting the data is typically where a digital health intervention ends,” says Tubman. “We want to take that next step and have Kevin’s mobile device suggest he sing, allowing for the regulation of serotonin, dopamine and cortisol, which control our autonomic stress response. And Kevin would have that intervention served up instantly through those very same headphones and monitored by his care team.”

“The best thing about the conference was the real support we got from the established medical community and learning about all of the work that is being done to speed the innovation and distribution of digital health,” explains Francine. “To us this was all wonderful news because it means that the type of personalized intervention we outlined for Kevin and millions of others, might come sooner than even we thought.”