Google and ProMedica Health System are jumping into the rapidly growing virtual care market to get a piece of the $213 billion that's spent annually on musculoskeletal care.
The two companies are partnering with IncludeHealth to launch a musculoskeletal (MSK) operating system that any provider can use to offer integrated virtual physical care for MSK patients. The platform is hardware-free and device-agnostic, according to the companies.
"The landscape of care delivery has shifted," said John Pigott, M.D., chief innovation officer at ProMedica in a statement. "Health systems must now seek powerful tools to navigate the new frontier of blending on-site and remote services. We’re excited to partner with IncludeHealth to pioneer the next generation of care delivery and ensure our patients receive care that is convenient, engaging, and most importantly, effective. By combining this easy-to-use technology with our existing high-quality care, our clinicians will be able to enhance the patient experience and deliver better outcomes.
"IncludeHealth digitizes physical medicine, rehabilitation and wellness and its technology is used for orthopedics, neuroscience, pediatric care, senior care, government and general wellness.
Costs for musculoskeletal health conditions continue to rise as consumer demand for virtual care accelerates.
MSK care impacts an estimated 126.6 million Americans and costs about $213 billion in annual treatment, care and lost wages, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Musculoskeletal conditions are often the largest cost driver for employers, surpassing even cancer and heart disease.
Patient demand for virtual MSK care and physical therapy is on the rise: Only 2% of PT appointments were done virtually before the pandemic, compared to 50% now, according to the American Physical Therapy Association.
At the same time, 21% of physical therapists rank limited technology as their biggest hurdle to delivering personalized, quantifiable patient care, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports.
ProMedica Health System, an integrated healthcare system headquartered in Toledo, Ohio serving communities in 28 states, is working with IncludeHealth to offer the MSK platform to its patients. Patients can use their phones, tablets, or computers to engage with providers and complete treatment plans at the time and place most convenient for them.
"Healthcare is moving beyond an old paradigm where patients could only get care at pre-scheduled times and inconvenient places," said Ryan Eder, founder and CEO of IncludeHealth. "The new MSK-OS was built to facilitate the hybrid model, where providers can deliver a seamless blend of on-site and remote digital care with high confidence and increased access—improving convenience, efficiency, and outcomes.
"IncludeHealth began collaborating with Google in 2020 to further advance its pose estimation models and accurately measure a patient's balance, strength and range of motion during physical therapy activities. First previewed at the 2021 Google I/O conference, the innovation significantly advances the speed and applicability of traditional post estimation models for virtual MSK care, according to company executives.
IncludeHealth’s MSK platform utilizes this technology to deliver prescriptive care with precise tracking of patient progress and outcomes for physical and occupational therapy across MSK treatment pathways.
"At Google, we’re always looking for high-impact applications of our new technologies," said Sandeep Gupta, product manager for TensorFlow at Google. "So, we provided early releases of our latest post estimation model, MoveNet, and worked together with the IncludeHealth team to achieve the ideal balance of speed and accuracy for physical therapy treatments."
The platform helps providers to deliver fast, accurate musculoskeletal care to patients whenever and wherever they need treatment, Gupta said.
Virtual physical therapy has become a hot market with investors are pouring big cash into MSK startups. Hinge Health recently banked a $300 million investment in series D funding while Kiai, a digital therapeutics company, raised $75 million in series C funding. Sword Health scored $110 million in six months to fuel its global expansion and to build value-based care models for musculoskeletal care.
In other market moves, Omada Health acquired virtual physical therapy company Physera for a reported $30 million, and telehealth company DarioHealth bought Upright Technologies for $31M to expand into the digital MSK market.
Employee benefits startup HealthJoy, which provides a platform designed to make it easier for employees to use their healthcare benefits, also jumped into the market when it acquired Rekinetics this year.
Many existing virtual MSK solutions circumvent traditional healthcare providers, according to IncludeHealth executives. This limits the ability to deliver end-to-end integrated care that deploys a combination of virtual and in-person services based on patient preference and clinical appropriateness, according to IncludeHealth executives.
The company's new MSK cloud-based operating system is built specifically to enable providers to support patients with virtual and onsite touchpoints throughout their care journey. The lack of hardware or sensors and the overall affordability of the solution translates to increased patient access, greater adherence to recommended MSK treatment pathways, and better clinical outcomes, according to the company.