Press release

June 22, 2021

Virtual rehab to gain ground in orthopedics as bundled payments take hold

By Arundhati Parmar

Read the original article here: MedCity News

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If you believe that digital health and orthopedics seem mutually exclusive, then you are sadly out of step with the times.

At a panel presentation about alternative payment models and bundled care at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in San Diego on Tuesday, speakers clearly signaled that virtual therapy would be used more and more in the future. Especially now when bundled care programs like the CMS-mandated Comprehensive Care of Joint Replacement (CJR) is in place in 67 metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S.

That should be good news for digital health startups in the field who are eager to prove the clinical validity of their products, as well as help hospitals to lower the overall cost of joint replacement procedures.

Dr. Owen O’Neill, an orthopedic surgeon with Twin Cities Orthopedics, explained how the large ortho group practice with 116 providers implemented a commercial bundle in 2013 and lessons learned from that program, now in its fifth year.

“I can tell you that 97 percent of our bundles actually are financially positive,” O’Neill declared. “Three percent lose so overall financially they are very successful.”

Still, there are challenges. Under the fee-for-service model, physical therapy offered by Twin Cities Orthopedics was a profit center. Now as the group implemented the bundle, they looked at post-acute care as the area in which costs can be cut. And five years into the program, what was a profit center is now a cost center.

“Future directions, on the therapy side we are looking at things like virtual therapy,” O’Neill said.

Later, in response to a question from this reporter, Richard Iorio, an orthopedic surgeon with NYU Langone Medical Center, echoed O’Neill.

“We are actively moving toward online physical therapy programs and our goal is to eliminate physical therapy for hips, only use in knees when we need it …,” said Richard Iorio, a hip and knee surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Iorio did not mention which companies and online programs NYU uses but mentioned there are several out there.

Here are a few that MedCity has come across:

Reflexion Health

This San Diego-based virtual rehab company uses sensors, Microsoft Kinect, and the Vera avatar to guide joint replacement patients through their physical therapy at home. This daily exercise routine done in front of a TV reduces the need for patients to go to a physical therapist or can keep them moving in between sessions. The patient’s physical therapist is in charge at all times and can choose to bring him or her in at their discretion. The system also provides a technology solution for hospitals eager to lower their costs to treat joint replacement patients.

The Vera system is cleared by the FDA and also is able to facilitate the collection of patient-reported outcomes as is required for reimbursement.

Jintronix

This Montreal, Canada-based company also uses sensors and Kinect similar to Reflexion Health, as well as adopts elements of gaming to provide visual feedback for users to make physical therapy and occupational therapy exercises more interesting for patients. The company’s FDA-cleared platform targets patients recovering from stroke, hip replacement, hip fractures and knee replacement. It also helps track patients with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

Force Therapeutics

New York-based Force Therapeutics is a remote monitoring company whose digital health platform provides physical therapy to joint replacement patients. What’s more, patients have access to surgeon videos and instructions, and physicians can track patient progress in between appointments. The goal of Force Therapeutics, as with the above companies is to reduce readmission rates that can increase the cost of the joint replacement episode of care.