A New York-based company aiming to revolutionize physical therapy delivery has raised another $8 million in venture capital funding, bringing its total raised to more than $15 million since 2015.
The company is Sword Health, a tech-enabled physical therapy provider that has created a digital therapist able to treat therapy patients remotely. The service could become a valuable one for home health providers, as the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM) reshapes how and when they provide in-home therapy visits moving forward.
“I really wanted to … create something that was performative and allowed patients to have therapy at home whenever they want without the need for the human guide to be there,” CEO Virgilio Bento told HHCN.
Since founding the company in Europe four years ago, Bento has since opened additional offices in New York and San Francisco, provided services to about 1,000 patients.
Now, after raising $8 million in a Series A investment round led by Khosla Ventures and other angel investors, Bento has his sights set on a different kind of growth.
“It’s really about expansion in the U.S. health care market,” he said. “Our focus is to ultimately put our digital therapist in millions of homes of patients throughout the U.S.”
The funding will also help Sword Health expand its digital therapist’s clinical validation and engineering, according to Bento.
Using the company’s digital therapist platform is relatively straight forward.
First, Sword Health’s clinical team does an assessment and creates a program for the patient, who receives a tablet enabled with the company’s software. The tablet, instead of an in-person physical therapist, then administers therapy sessions at the patient’s convenience.
To ensure exercises are done properly, motion trackers analyze movements, and Phoenix, the company’s digital therapist, provides real-time feedback. Meanwhile, clinical teams monitor each session remotely and communicate with the patient as needed.
“The key component here is that we’re maximizing therapy,” Bento said. “It allows us to maximize intensity and recover patients as quickly as possible.”
Currently, musculoskeletal disorders are one of the largest cost drivers in the U.S. health care industry, with $190 billion in expenditures per year. Sword Health aims to cut that number in half.
“We are really enabling this shift from a free-for-service world to a value-based care world where what matters is not the amount of sessions, it’s really the outcome of the patient,” Bento said. “By allowing patients to have their therapy at-home — independently, seven days a week, on weekends, on weekdays — we are allowing patients to recover much more efficiently.”
Improved therapy efficiency has become a top priority for home health agencies ahead of the PDGM, which is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2020.
PDGM eliminates therapy visit volume as a determining factor in calculating reimbursements, meaning therapy-heavy home health agencies will need to become more cost-efficient to ensure they aren’t hurt financially when the new model takes effect.
Industry leaders have lauded telehealth as a solution, pointing to its elimination of the need for certain therapy visits without negatively impacting patient care — potentially creating increased opportunities for technologies like the digital therapist Sword Health has developed.