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Has the “gig” economy come to physical therapy?



This article originally appeared on ryortho.com.

A press announcement crossed our desk recently and it sure sounded like a California based provider of on-demand physical therapy services is, in effect, becoming the Uber or GrubHub of rehab.

The company, Rocklin California-based Luna Care, Inc., announced that they had signed a partnership agreement with Atlanta, Georgia-based Emory Healthcare and San Diego, California-based Scripps Health to deliver at-home physical therapy services to local patients.

What caught our eye was this: Luna's name comes from “moonlighting.” Most of Luna's 800+ licensed physical therapists work full time at clinics or other facilities and do about 10 visits per week with Luna. In effect, these otherwise employed therapists “moonlight” with Luna—which now more commonly known as the “gig” economy.

Under the Luna banner, more than 800 physical therapists are now providing services in 10 states including Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. Its physical therapists have at least three years of experience treating patients.

And, not unlike Uber or DoorDash, Luna built a software technology platform which facilitates the service. Luna’s platform matches patients to physical therapists based on their specialty, location, and schedule. Once the patient books their appointment, the physical therapist provides physical therapy to the patient at home or work, whichever is required.

Luna also has an app which patients can use in between sessions for exercises and to ask their physical therapist questions.

Luna Head of Clinical Services Palak Shah, PT told OTW, “Luna is the only company that offers on-demand, in-person physical therapy delivery. While digital solutions can serve a portion of the market with musculoskeletal care needs, many people need in-person care to achieve the best adherence rates and outcomes.”

Alexander Sah, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Sah Orthopaedic Associates based in Fremont and Menlo Park, California, told OTW, “As a hip and knee replacement specialist, I perform over 900 surgeries a year. Just as important as having the surgery go smoothly is ensuring the patient has access to quality physical therapy to aid in their recovery. Referring patients to Luna ensures they'll receive high-quality, standardized care all from the comfort of their home, removing the burden of travel and dramatically increasing a patient's likelihood of completing their care regimen.”

Emory patients in the Atlanta area now have access to this service. Scott Boden, M.D., director of the Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center and vice president for business innovation at Emory Healthcare, commented in part, “By collaborating with Luna, we’re able to bring safe, convenient, and high-quality care to patients who do not live near one of our physical therapy sites, removing the barriers of travel time and transportation and making it as easy as possible to complete their treatment plan.”

Scripps patients in the San Diego area will also have access to Luna’s network of physical therapists. Scripps Corporate Senior Vice President of Ancillary Operations Lisa Risser commented in part, “The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a shift we were making at Scripps to meet patients where they are by delivering care outside the hospital or clinic walls, and we’re excited to add physical therapy to our robust at-home strategy.”