This article was originally published February 17, 2023 on Fierce Healthcare.
As health systems lean into partnerships with digital health companies to expand hybrid care, the AARP is leaning into at-home care through a new partnership with Luna, a tech-enabled in-home physical therapy provider.
The AARP’s 38 million members will now have access to Luna’s services along with its digital platform facilitating inter-appointment exercises and stretches. AARP, previously called the American Association for Retired Persons, has chosen Luna as the exclusive at-home provider of physical therapy for its members. More than 60% of those using physical therapy are over 50 years old.
"AARP is dedicated to empowering Americans to choose how they live as they age," Greg Marion, senior vice president of health products and services for AARP Services, said in a press release. "We saw a need for AARP members to have options on how, where and when they access physical therapy and chose Luna to deliver convenient in-home physical therapy for our nearly 38 million members. Removing the barrier of traveling to receive physical therapy can improve health outcomes for members; it gives the physical therapy recipient options."
Palak Shah, co-founder and head of clinical operations at Luna, said that people often jokingly refer to Luna as the “Door Dash for PT.” While care takes place in person, the tech facilitating those interactions is quite advanced, she said.
Patients are matched with someone in their area with expertise in the specific condition. The platform also ensures that patients see the same provider each time.
Interactions themselves are also informed by the digital platform. Between visits, patients are prompted to complete exercises commonplace in physical therapy regimes. Therapists can then track how many have been completed and therefore better tailor care to patients.
As other physical therapy offerings move to a primarily digital space, Luna stands by its in-home care leveraging tech.
“Allowing a physical therapist to be in the patient's home really helps us cater the program to their environment, which makes it very applicable and helps really high adherence,” Shah said. “So being in home, being able to improve access to patients and access to members to maintain their function and physical abilities, is a huge value add for members and for an organization that like AARP.”
According to Luna, 60% to 70% of those who use telehealth muscoloskeletal care end up meeting a therapist in person at some point.
Primarily virtual providers in the MSK space have their own limitations. Digital health company Hinge Health boasts a valuation of $6.2 billion for its offering which primarily addresses back or joint pain but not more complex issues like muscle repair. As opposed to surgery recovery, a common reason many turn to PT, Hinge focuses on avoiding surgery.
Sword Health helps treat MSK conditions in the lower back, shoulder, neck and knee using motion sensors to inform a personalized artificial-intelligence-powered therapeutic exercise program on a table that in-house physicians can track in real time.
UnitedHealthcare partnered with Kaia Health to provide on-demand exercise feedback to eligible program members with MSK conditions. While some members recovering from surgery may be able to access the program, some will be referred to in-person care.
Shah thinks there is space for every iteration of virtual care but that it is important that homebound or rural patients or patients who are a fall risk still get access to the in-person treatment that virtual MSK care may not be able to provide. That in-person care at scale, she says, “is a harder problem to solve, and I think we’ve done a great job.”
In December, Luna set the goal of doubling its staff from 2,500 to 5,000 across the 27 states and 50 markets it serves.
AARP has announced other exclusive partnerships, naming UnitedHealthcare as the exclusive insurer of the Medicare Supplement insurance plans and Oak Street Health as its exclusive primary care provider.