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Sword Health: Bridging Virtual and Physical Care

June 30, 2021
BY CHRIS BISCHOFF AND REVA NOHRIA
by
Chris Bischoff
Reva Nohria
Sword Health: Bridging Virtual and Physical Care

A core tenet of our health assurance vision is creating more seamless bridges between the virtual and physical care worlds to better enable access to high quality care in large, fragmented conditions. As we saw over the course of the pandemic, there is ample opportunity to plug meaningful technology-driven services and solutions into our existing health system to meet consumers where they are. While this paradigm shift is exciting, an open challenge has been delivering superior results virtually for conditions that have historically demanded physical intervention. One of these key categories is musculoskeletal conditions.

Musculoskeletal conditions are injuries and disorders that affect movement of the body and are the world’s leading cause of disability. Nearly 30% of US adults — 100M people — experience a new MSK condition each year. The total direct and indirect cost of these conditions is ~$980B — $325B in medical spending, $557B in workplace productivity, and $98B in lost wages. Employers spend more on MSK disorders than any other condition or chronic disease. Yet, the treatment of these conditions is fragmented across multiple providers, often poorly coordinated, and difficult to access.

Physical therapy should be the first intervention for patients whose conditions cannot be managed through ice or rest. However, patients are often referred by primary care providers to surgeons rather than physical therapists for non-operative care. Even when they are correctly triaged, their ability to access evidenced-based physical therapy remains a challenge. This challenge is driven by the general scarcity of licensed physical therapists, the one-on-one, in-person nature of sessions, and a high price point. There are only 74 physical therapists per 100K Americans, and the average price per session is $120, with high-intensity 12-week programs costing $7.2K on average. If patients are able to find and afford a physical therapist, they are also burdened with traveling several times a week, often during work hours, just to have their sessions. As a result of this broken experience, 50% of patients drop-out of physical therapy after just four sessions, as opposed to the multi-week process normally required to recover. In many cases, this sets off a negative chain reaction that pushes patients into avoidable or unneeded surgery or opioid prescriptions.

We are excited to announce our investment in SWORD Health because they are fundamentally disrupting this vicious spiral. SWORD does this by providing virtual musculoskeletal care that does not forfeit the results of seeing a physical therapist in person. Through their sensor-based, AI-driven technology and their network of licensed physical therapists, SWORD is able to offer high quality, high intensity musculoskeletal care to members within the comfort of their home. SWORD also understands the importance of a human touch, which is why every member is paired with a licensed physical therapist who can be accessed at any time. These physical therapists monitor the data coming from sensors members wear during treatment to provide coaching and fully customized care programs. They offer chronic pain treatment and post surgical rehab for all the major joints including lower back, shoulder, neck, knee, elbow, hip, ankle, and wrist. In this way, SWORD is democratizing access to physical therapy, with the goal of ensuring no one receives inadequate care.

The results speak for themselves. SWORD is the fastest growing company in virtual MSK, has a 94% completion rate, and has earned a 9.3 patient satisfaction score. SWORD members report a 70% reduction in pain, 64% reduction in surgery intent, 48% reduction in medication consumption, 52% reduction in depression, and a 35% reduction in anxiety.

SWORD could not have achieved this transformational impact on MSK care without the capabilities and passion of Virgilio, Marcio, and the rest of the SWORD team. After a challenging personal experience, Virgilio dedicated himself to learning about how technology could create better patient experiences and health outcomes. Together, Virgilio and Marcio developed a novel digital therapy technology that became the foundation of SWORD and brought together an amazing team, distributed across Portugal and the US to transform that technology into a market-leading solution.

We believe SWORD creates a new system of health assurance in musculoskeletal care by reducing access constraints, alleviating the cost burden on employers and health plans, scaling the quality of care, and bridging the virtual and physical care worlds. The ability to drive real outcomes clearly positions SWORD to pioneer and lead the shift of the MSK industry to value-based care. Through our partnership with the SWORD team, we are excited to redefine what musculoskeletal care means and create a new gold standard in virtual care.

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