Reflexion Health Inc.'s new interactive physical therapy program lets patients exercise and complete their rehab from home.
Patients recovering from orthopedic injuries will now be able to participate in rehab from the comforts of their homes using a motion sensor application that captures their movements while they exercise. Reflexion's Vera program aims to solve the long-standing problem of poor compliance among patients with muskuloskeletal conditions who fail to progress after being discharged from a facility. The technology can be used to encourage adherence to a rehab plan and for patients to perform their exercises correctly and right on schedule. It also overcomes time and distance constraints and minimizes the need to have a physical therapist at their side.
In a press release, Reflexion says Vera allows patients to perform interactive exercises at home using instructional videos and education materials. The software then records and transmits performance data to doctors and physical therapists in real time, who then study the data and give immediate response to patients.
Reflexion says Vera offers the patient unparalleled convenience and control and minimizes the need for long commutes to rehab centers. This is important at a time when more and more people are undergoing rehab for orthopedic injuries and conditions. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, approximately $127 billion dollars annually are spent in the United States alone for musculoskeletal conditions.
"Healthcare needs tools like Vera that can extend the expertise of physical therapists and finds ways to better engage, motivate and coach patients towards their recovery, wherever they are,” said Spencer Hutchins, CEO and co-founder of Reflexion Health, highlighting an important problem for patients who are often unmotivated during rehab.
A study by Michigan Technological University researchers reveals that lack of time and feedback, as well as feelings of helplessness, are some of the reasons for failure to complete a rehabilitation program. Poor communication between physical therapists and patients is another reason, according to a presentation by Dr. Duane Millslagle of the University of Minnesota Duluth. Middle-aged women also cite home demands and time constraints as factors that affect adherence.
Health organizations, physicians and other health care professionals are under increasing pressure to encourage adherence among patients to bring down costs associated with re-admission, repeat procedures and re-injuries. Already, cost concerns have driven digital health startups to develop tools that analyze data and deliver health services. Particularly, there has been more collaboration seen between stakeholders in the health IT field to utilize new technologies to address old problems in orthopedic care. For its part, Reflexion has partnered with Center for Connected Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital at Partners HealthCare to study the effectiveness of Vera for patients with knee and hip injuries.
"We see the potential for this technology to demonstrate how improved physical therapy can drive adherence, engagement and may ultimately help patients restore physical function and health,” explained Clare Safran-Norton, clinical supervisor of Rehabilitation Services at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
“We need technologies like Vera to expedite the rehab process by leveraging our highly-skilled therapists to provide more direct patient care, using evidence-based, manual therapy techniques,” added Kelly Randich, lead physical therapist at Rady Children’s Hospital, one of Reflexion's partner facilities.
Currently undergoing a research evaluation, the interactive program is based on Microsoft's Kinect motion sensor technology which records gestures and body movements. While made originally for video gaming purposes, sensor technologies such as Kinect are being developed for creative health care applications. The idea is that people who are already familiar with this intuitive game-based technology can now use an even more advanced form to comply with rehab goals. Health care startups like Reflexion are attracting the attention of investors who are keen on funding such endeavors.
Reflexion just received a $7.5 million Series A financing from West Health Investment Fund to use in ramping up product development and engineering, enhancing customer support, and researching motion sensing input device technologies to support their initial product. This latest round of financing for Reflexion follows an earlier $4.5 million funding from West Health Investment Fund to develop its Rehabilitation Tracker program which formed the basis for Vera.
The company plans to market its Vera program as a low-cost yet effective application that can be prescribed by rehabilitation and orthopedic doctors as well as physical therapists. Similar health app models are being developed by other healthcare IT startups, such as New York-based Happtique, which is marketing its prescription app program for physical therapy, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes patients.
These new applications come at a crucial time for a growing number of orthopedic patients who are also becoming more technologically savvy. Traditional methods of going to a rehab facility and seeing a physical therapist may not be feasible at times for patients. Unlike before, these health apps allow them to perform regular exercises or a PT program from basically anywhere they want. The digital health revolution is impacting today's patients by breaking down old barriers and tweaking emerging technologies from other fields then re-purposing them to fill an increasing health need.