Reflexion Health, which has developed a “virtual physical therapy” system for patients recovering from surgery, said results from a randomized controlled clinical trial completed by nearly 300 people showed patients who used the technology saved the healthcare industry an average of $2,745 compared to those who underwent traditional physical therapy.
The study, which evaluated Reflexion’s system for patients after total knee replacement surgery, was conducted in conjunction with the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI), part of the Duke University School of Medicine.
The study determined the San Diego, CA-based startup’s system was as effective in reducing disability and improving knee function as traditional physical therapy, but less costly. The savings came from reductions in what’s called “post-acute” care—that’s services provided in long-term hospital care, a skilled nursing facility or rehabilitation care—and rehospitalizations, according to DCRI.
Reflexion said the study was the first “large scale” comparison of virtual physical therapy and traditional physical therapy.
The company’s FDA-cleared rehabilitation platform (pictured above) is called VERA (for “virtual exercise rehabilitation assistant”). An avatar, named Vera (naturally), guides patients through exercised prescribed for recovery. The system, intended for patients to use at home, uses Microsoft’s Kinect spatial camera to track and analyze patient movement during therapy sessions. The virtual physical therapist coaches patients through exercises, guiding users through the ideal motions for healing. Video of the sessions is sent to therapists.
CEO Joe Smith said earlier this year that the company wants the VERA system to be included in bundled insurance contracts that include rehabilitation services with payments for surgeries.
Smith said he believes the study results should prompt provider and payers to adopt the system.
Of 306 adults enrolled, 287 of the patients completed the trial, which examined clinical outcomes, health service use, and costs for three months after surgery. About half used the VERA system, with clinical oversight. The control group received traditional physical therapy, either at home or at a clinic.
“As people live longer and these surgeries become more common, it is important to identify solutions that maintain or improve outcomes while decreasing the burden on patients and providers,” said Janet Prvu Bettger, associate professor with the Duke Department of Orthopedic Surgery and principal investigator of the study.
She said that Reflexion’s platform also provides clinicians with greater insight into a patient’s recovery process than traditional physical therapy. Full results from the trial will be presented in November at the American Health Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons’s annual meeting.
Reflexion, which was founded at San Diego’s nonprofit West Health Institute in 2012, raised $18 million in a Series funding round B in 2016.
Since then Smith said it has raised an undisclosed amount of additional funding.