Virtual physical therapy for the elderly
In addition to pain, gradual musculoskeletal deterioration in people over 65 often leads to falls and fall-related injuries, which are responsible for five times as many hospitalisations in this age group as other types of injury. One in three elderly people experiences a fall each year. When an injury occurs, the average cost of treatment after a fall jumps by 67%, from USD 21 000 to USD 35 000, for someone who sustains an injury relative to someone who does not. After chronic diseases, falls and related injuries are the second-most common cause of death among seniors in the United States.
Regular physical therapy is the most consistently proven way to substantially reduce the likelihood of falls and fractures. However, in the United States, open-ended physical therapy is too expensive for a retiree living on a basic pension, and transport to appointments can be difficult to organise. Moreover, people often receive physical therapy at community centres, where the exercises on offer tend to be too generic to meet people’s individual needs.
SimpleTherapy created an online platform that allows individual users to perform physical rehabilitation exercises anywhere and anytime by watching a series of personalised and adaptive live-action videos. It uses artificial intelligence to collect users’ feedback – asking, for instance, about pain levels and whether the exercise was appropriate, too easy or too hard – and then to identify appropriate exercises. The result is an individually tailored, dynamic set of exercises for each user like the instructions provided by a physiotherapist in a one-to-one consultation.
SimpleTherapy currently offers 18 modules for rehabilitating different body joints, with a focus on addressing musculoskeletal pain. Although consumers may buy access to the platform directly online, retail sales will remain a secondary activity until the brand becomes more visible. For now SimpleTherapy targets insurance companies, large employers, accountable care organisations, third-party administrators and federal governments as customers. It has already run scientific and commercial trials with several which have confirmed interest in rolling out the product on a larger scale.
GOALS AND EXPECTED IMPACT
SimpleTherapy is now developing a programme called the Falls and Fracture Prevention Program (FFPP), which targets people aged 65 and older. Next steps for FFPP include completing the database of exercises, taping the videos and conducting a clinical trial to refine the programme. Thereafter, the company will launch pilots with insurance providers.
SimpleTherapy’s programme promotes healthy aging and prevents falls and fractures, thereby prolonging people’s active lives. As the solution can be linked to any existing activity support and monitoring programmes, it can be easily integrated into a smart home. Finally, it offers a highly attractive financial value proposition for long-term or pension-based care: a full year of SimpleTherapy costs no more than one in-person visit to a physical therapy clinic.
The incidence of fractures of the hip, spine, wrist, and shoulder increase with age. Research shows that the falls that cause these fractures are predictable on the basis of individual risk factors and preventable via interventions such as physical therapy treatment and rehabilitation.
SimpleTherapy is leading the way in helping the elderly age independently, while reducing short- and long-term health plan costs.