Tech-Powered Therapy Provider Nets $9M, Targets Home Health Industry Amid PDGM Disruption

Home health providers struggling with the delivery of therapy services may soon have increased access to an up-and-coming telerehab tool that’s promising to disrupt the traditional physical therapy model.

Sword Health, a tech-enabled physical therapy provider, announced that it has received $9 million more in funding for its Series A round. The additional funds bring the New York-based company’s Series A fundraising total to $17 million.

The most recent investment was led by Khosla Ventures, with additional participation from Founders Fund, Green Innovations, Lachy Groom, Vesalius Biocapital and Faber Ventures. San Francisco-based Khosla Ventures is a venture capital firm focused on various forms of early-stage technology companies.

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Founded in 2015, Sword Health has created a digital therapist able to treat therapy patients remotely. It has provided care to thousands of therapy patients in Europe, Australia and the U.S. with preventative, chronic and post-surgical care.

[Take the Survey] Post-PDGM Therapy Outlook

The goal of Swords’ services, which focus on musculoskeletal care, is to provide high-quality therapy services for a fraction of the cost of in-person care.

Since 2015, the company has been working on developing the technology — both in the market and clinically — to the point where it could begin delivering care at a higher scale.

“We’ve always been very careful about raising money,” CEO Virgilio Bento told Home Health Care News. “We [wanted to] have a clear path. We raised our first round in April … . [Then] we thought we’d wait until 2021. But given not only the strong interest from investors, but also the fact that we’ve been getting lots of demand from the market, [we decided to] expand our series.”

After the first round of funding, Bento was clear about his goals to expand Sword’s footprint domestically.

“Our focus is to ultimately put our digital therapist in millions of homes of patients throughout the U.S,” he told HHCN in April.

Part of the demand from the market could be due to the therapy changes under the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM), which has been of the biggest storylines since the new payment model was implemented on Jan. 1.

Under PDGM, the way therapy visits are reimbursed has changed, prompting companies to get creative in how and when they deploy therapists.

“We are pioneering a new model of care, which is a little bit different than traditional physical therapy,” Bento said. “There’s a clear opportunity in the market for a new solution, a solution where — in order for you to have high-quality care — you don’t need one of these highly-specialized, highly-costly human resources to give you care.”

The Sword method goes like this: A clinical team does an assessment, creates a program for patients and gives them a tablet fitted with the company’s software. That tablet then administers therapy sessions when patients wish.

Accompanying motion trackers analyze movements and Sword Phoenix, which takes the place of an in-person therapist, uses artificial intelligence to understand the patient and provide real-time feedback. Clinical teams monitor the sessions remotely.

Melinda Gaboury, co-founder and CEO of Healthcare Provider Solutions Inc., described telerehab’s potential in March 2019.

“If the patient has gotten to the point that they can do their own home exercise program, what better way to make sure that’s happening than a therapist watching them via remote monitoring?” Gaboury said during a home health event. “I’m not saying you’re going to replace therapy with remote monitoring. I’m saying it is a possibility of supplementing having a registered therapist in the house.”

The $9 million will be used to increase Sword’s market footprint and help it invest in distribution, sales and marketing, among other areas.

“Sword’s digital clinical care model has been shown to significantly improve health care outcomes for patients while reducing employer costs,” Vinod Khosla, the founder of Khosla Ventures, said in a statement. “This allows for very exciting options on innovative business models for the company.”

In a 2019 National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) survey of nearly 700 home health providers, more than one-quarter of participants said they were actively exploring telehealth technology specific to therapy. More than 5% said they planned to up their use of therapy telehealth tools in 2020.

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