Hinge Health gets $8M to prevent musculoskeletal surgeries

By Jonah Comstock
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San Francisco and London-based Hinge Health, which makes a scalable digital health program for treating musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, has raised $8 million in a new round of funding led by Atomico. All the company’s seed investors, including Eleven Two Capital and The Vertical Group, also participated in the round.

Hinge Health is using digital health technology, including wearables and apps, to change the status quo of MSK condition management.

“There’s not a lot of controversy in what best practice care is for MSK: Education, physical therapy and behavioral support,” CEO Daniel Perez told MobiHealthNews. “The problem is none of that fits into a pill. So if you have chronic lower back pain, if you have knee arthritis, there’s about an 80 percent chance you’re not going to get the care that all the medical textbooks say you should be receiving. So what happens to patients is they eventually get shunted to opiates and surgery.”

And that surgery represents a huge cost for employers and health insurers, despite not very much evidence of efficacy.

“So what we’ve done is we’ve created a scalable approach to nonsurgical treatment for MSK conditions — education, physical therapy, and behavioral support — and we’ve digitized them into a 12-week program,” Perez said. “And we’ve been able to demonstrate that we can improve outcomes by over 55 percent, and we’re avoiding nearly two thirds of surgeries. … You can pay to put 100 people through Hinge Health and if we prevent a single lower back surgery it will pay for the whole hundred people. That is how low the fruit is hanging and that’s why MSK is so much more expensive than diabetes or mental health. It’s so procedure-driven. That’s why for most employers it’s the number one cost.”

Since the company was founded in 2014, Hinge has seen impressive growth. Perez says that 100,000 people now have access to Hinge Health and the company projects matching all of its 2017 revenue in the first two months of 2018. The company’s staff has grown from 8 to 15 this year, with plans to have 35 employees by the end of the year.

The company is raising funds now to support that growth, as well as to continue to innovate the product — Perez wants to add hip, neck, and shoulder injuries as well as their existing knee and back offerings. Finally, the company intends to focus on building up efficacy data that proves the model’s value.

“We have a five year research road map we’ve put together, and we’re going to continue to publish,” he said. “I feel like digital health companies don’t do that well. … We think the data’s on our side. We published our first paper in March and we plan to publish two more by the end of this summer and another one in January. So we’re going to have a rich publication track record demonstrating our clinical efficacy in the peer-reviewed literature.”

The company is planning to soon announce deals with some major payer customers, and is attracting talent from Apple and Google as well as Grand Rounds, Castlight, and Omada on the healthcare side.

“Ultimately we don’t just want to stay in MSK. My vision is to create a digital hospital. That is the direction we want to go at Hinge Health. And we want to take the evidence base of what’s been shown in the real world and we want to digitize that and do it at scale.”