We are living the days of a true technology revolution. The entire medical technology industry was estimated worldwide in 2015 to an astonishing 336.2 billion $ market (1). This changed the way the physicians used to work and, today, more than 40% out of them go online during a patient visit and the most popular content consumed is drug reference databases. (2). 86% of the physicians said that they have mobile based technology in their practice for accessing electronic medical records. And this is not all. 94% of physicians use mobile consulting apps while working (3).
Almost all medical sectors joined this revolution and the use of technology increased in the last 20 years. Medicine relies on the use of technology. Imagine diagnosis without an X-ray machine or kidney dialysis without a dialyzer or think about how the digital hearing aid technology is winning the war against the analog technology.
In physiotherapy, things are not like that. Even though the physiotherapists are doing a great job and reached a level of knowledge that in most countries in Europe is equal to the level of a recovery doctor, with the physiotherapist becoming the first point of contact with the patient, the use of technology it’s still low.
1) Very expensive equipment for most of the clinics
In the initial assessment, most physiotherapists are using a plastic goniometer to measure the range of motion of an injured knee or elbow. Some of them see things differently than others and choose to use an electronic goniometer that can read continuously as arms or knees are adjusted, has a better accuracy and can also have a holding function, so they can make sure that they never forget a measurement.
The first method is not wrong, but we believe there’s a lot of room to improve. There exists other revolutionary equipment that would help a physiotherapist, for example an Alter-G treadmill that can cost up to 75.000 dollars, but most clinics can’t afford it.
2) Physiotherapists are in high demand. Seniors are hard to find
We asked several clinic owners in Europe how the physiotherapy methods evolved in the last 10 years. All the answers were similar and they can be summarized to this: “The methods remained the same. The treatment is the same. The only difference is that now we have acupuncture and massage therapists.”
Physiotherapy is such an important practice and will continue to grow because modern people tend to get less involved in physical activity and have dangerous eating diets and habits. In Germany for instance, in 2013, Eurostat counted 167.000 physiotherapist (4). This means 205 physiotherapists for 100.000 people.
The need of specialists in this sector is still high, but if you compare it to the dentists (82 per 100.000) and pharmacists (63 per 100.000 people), it is very high. We looked at the number of physiotherapists employed in United Kingdom, Belgium, Estonia, Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary and other European countries and guess what? This number is growing every year. (5)
3) You can measure physiotherapy
“What you can’t measure you can’t improve” (Sir. William Thomson, Lord Kelvin)
The use of technology helped a lot of industries evolve and become more profitable. Think about how productive the day of an architect, engineer or graphic designer was, in the days before AutoCAD took over and changed everything.
Ever heard of a AS/RS robot?
The archiving industry became a successful business after the implementation of the AS/RS systems (Automated storage and retrieval system). The top archiving companies are moving all the paper files online to be accessed at any time by the customer’s employees when they need to find specific information, and invest in the AS/RS robots to deliver any paper file from the archives in no time. The same technology is used in distribution organization’s warehouse. Optimizing the retrieval system increased the storage density, decreased the labor costs and helped them improve the order accuracy.
Another example to look at is the industry of financial services. Those days when tasks were handled with human interactions, big computers and paper money are long gone. The digital interfaces revolution has made finance industry become in 2015 the second most profitable sector in the world, after health technology, according to Forbes (6).
4) A hard business to scale
The success of a physiotherapy clinic is in direct connection to the quality of services provided by the employees. To grow and to move the clinic into a bigger location or open another clinic under the same brand, one should ensure that the quality of service fits the standards, so there are lots of other things to take into considerations when making such a big step. There are other ways of increasing revenues and helping physiotherapists gain more experience by treating more patients with ease and technology can help. There are ways to scale as a business and even though it might seem hard for a manager to boost revenue with a minimal increase in operating costs, it isn’t.
That’s why we created ReFlex – a smart assistant for the physiotherapy process and a product that aims to help the entire physiotherapy chain: patients, physiotherapists, clinic owners and even insurance companies.
ReFlex is a set of wearable motion detection sensors together with a mobile app and a web platform. The sensor can track, monitor and analyze every movement done by a patient struggling with a hand, leg, back or shoulder injury. It will identify the exercises they are doing and it will also count them. It can also detect and signal dangerous behavior or the limitations set by the physiotherapist in terms of motion, angles, speed and trajectory.
A research into physiotherapy! Sign up to get it for free
To understand from all perspectives the needs of patients, physiotherapists, clinic owners and insurers, we talked with our highly skilled advisors. Our arguments were validated, but we wanted to be 100% sure, so we decided to dig further. We set for ourselves the challenge of taking interviews from 100 clinics worldwide (owners and physiotherapists), 100 patients and 100 insurance managers to find out what their struggles are and how we can help. After the first stage of interviews, from Hong Kong to Montreal and from Bucharest to London, we have found out the main aspects we must focus on and how ReFlex can solve these problems.
All the important data we collected will be part of a research paper.
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