Physical therapy is approaching a crisis, according to Dr. Kourosh Parsapour, founder and CEO of 5plus, a startup working on building digital health physical therapy tools. The specialty is experiencing provider shortages at the same time as the need for physical therapy and rehabilitation services increases -- as the baby boomer generation ages.
"By 2030, the number of states with substandard physical therapy will increase from 12 to 48 states, and 1 out of 5 americans will be 65 or older," said Parsapour during a panel discussion at the American Telemedicine Association event in Austin, Texas last week. "Last year, CMS reduced reimbursment to therapists by 12 percent."
Telerehabilitation, where physical therapists work with one or more patients over video chat, is one technological solution for addressing that gap. Healthbox Boston startup Theravid, for instance, is working on an online portal which includes video instructions on different exercises, online workout reminders, workout tracking, and a secure messaging system to contact their therapist. TeleRehab Systems, a stealth-mode stroke rehabilitation startup, is developing a tablet-based system.
The technology that's jumpstarting most telerehabilition startups, however, is Microsoft Kinect for Windows, an off-the-shelf 3D motion-capture sensor with an open API. Therapy games can interact directly with patients and even track their movements to report to doctors remotely. These interactions can be either realtime or asynchronous. A number of startups, many of which are coming through high-profile digital health accelerators, are leveraging those possibilities with soon-to-be released offerings.
Here are nine companies tackling digital rehab solutions, many of which Parsapour mentioned in his ATA talk or in an interview MobiHealthNews after the event.
Reflexion spun off from the West Health Institute last year and has recently begun running clinical trials to validate the technology. The company offers a rehabilitation measurement tool,which uses Microsoft Kinect software to both instruct the patient on exercises through animations and measure whether or not they're doing their exercises correctly. Physical therapists can prescribe exercises that are preloaded into the platform or design their own.
Home Team Therapy is another company bringing physical therapy to the home with interactive video. The Rock Health Boston startup calls itself a video game for physical therapy, and advertises that, as CEO Tim Fu says in a video on their website, "We're with you for the six days out of the weeks you're not seeing your physical therapist." Their offering is a combination of Microsoft Kinect software and online pre-recorded video instructions. The company is currently in closed beta.