One of the really interesting companies that I’ve seen at both the Digital Health Conference in NYC and now at the mHealth Summit in DC is a company called Force Therapeutics. This company is part of the Startup Health crew of companies and have a pretty interesting product for ensuring patient compliance using a really cool mobile and web based app.
Force Therapeutics is their first product which is focused on physical therapists which is a smart first step since the founder is a physical therapist. At its core, Force Therapeutics is an application where a physical therapist can “prescribe” exercises that need to be done by their patients. Those doing the exercises can log into the app and see the video demonstrating the exercise and then mark down whether they did the exercise or not. By having the video present during the exercise, it helps the patient to perform the exercise properly and then the physical therapist can know how well their patients are complying with the exercises they prescribed.
The app is available on the web or on the iPad and I believe Android. Plus, they offer a pretty cool online store where physical therapists can direct their patients to purchase the various products they need to do the physical therapy. I imagine that could be a nice revenue stream for Force Therapeutics and could be really convenient for physical therapists and patients.
Force Therapeutics also has a consumer version of their application available on the app store that could enable those interested in trying some physical therapy exercises without going to their doctor or the physical therapist. This feels wrong for many in the US who are so use to needing a doctors referral to go to physical therapy. Could be an interesting play for Force Therapeutics to help out with those aches and pains that we all have (and are getting more the older we get) that aren’t worthy of a doctor, but could benefit from some mild “therapy.” I’m sure this will have many doctors and physical therapists cringing a little bit, but whether it’s Force Therapeutics is used or some other app, there’s little doubt that patients will be doing this sort of self directed therapy anyway.
As I saw an app like Force Therapeutics, I could see it as a nice add on to EMR software. My only fear is that it feels more like a feature of an EMR software as opposed to a product unto its own. Although, I think Force Therapeutics has a chance for a number of different reasons.
First, I don’t see many EMR vendors really diving into this space. Sure, some might do some pieces of this, but they have so many things on their development plate that I think it’s unlikely for most EHR software vendors to develop these type of features.
Second, physical therapy is a space where EMR hasn’t gone very much. Sure, there’s WebPT, but most physical therapists are still in the paper world. The EHR incentive money passed over physical therapists and so it seems that many of them will continue sitting on the sidelines. That leaves a great opportunity for niche apps to satisfy the needs of these niche providers.
Plus, when I talked to the Force Therapeutics founder, I think that one of their biggest opportunities is outside the physical therapy space. Sure, it would be easy to expand Force Therapeutics into orthopedics or other medical specialty that wants to measure and support compliance in treatment. However, even more interesting to me is the idea of a Force Fitness type of app that focuses on trainers and exercise. When you start to think about trainers need to monitor their client’s exercise habits it makes a lot of since. In fact, if played right, Force Fitness could become a network that connects trainers with those interested in finding a personal trainer. Considering the amount of money spent on exercise each year, this is a really tremendous opportunity.
It’s still early in the life of something like Force Therapeutics, but it’s a pretty interesting little insight into the future of how various apps could impact healthcare. One of the panel speakers at the mHealth Summit said that there were 17,000 healthcare apps on the market today. I’m not sure where he got his number, but no matter how you slice it that’s a lot of healthcare apps. Multiply an app like Force Therapeutics by 17,000 and you can see there’s a sea of change happening in the mobile health space.