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Physical Therapy Joining Care-at-Home Movement

This article is written by David Raths and originally appeared on hcinnovationgroup.com.

One of the key trends of 2021 is the shift of care to the home setting, ranging from acute hospital at home to skilled nursing at home. Now physical therapy has jumped on the bandwagon, too.

Georgia-based Emory Healthcare has partnered with a California company called Luna to bring outpatient physical therapy treatment to patients’ homes. Luna says its turnkey service helps health systems like Emory improve the profitability of their rehabilitation services by expanding access to care, improving adherence, enhancing patient experience, and reducing referral leakage.

“The pandemic really accelerated the way we think about off-site care,” said Scott Boden, M.D., director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center and vice president for business innovation for Emory Healthcare. “We very quickly had to reinvent not only how we diagnose patients, and figure out if they needed surgery, but also how we treat them nonoperatively, including with rehabilitation. That really accelerated the development of the toolbox for doing remote physical therapy.”

That toolbox includes on-site therapy, and telehealth PT, which is appropriate in some other situations. In-home PT makes sense, Boden added, if somebody doesn't live close enough to one of Emory’s bricks-and-mortar PT sites. “It depends on geography, diagnosis and stage of rehabilitation, as to which of those options are the best.” The partnership with Luna removes the barriers to care of time and transportation and makes it as easy as possible for patients to complete their treatment plan.

Boden said that Emory is part of an innovation consortium that gets presentations from new vendors, and Luna was one of the companies that his cohort voted they wanted to learn more about. A few of the healthcare systems in the cohort chose to match with Luna, actually setting up a meeting, and beginning a due diligence process. “We were one of the first to do that,” he recalled. “I wouldn't say that we woke up in the morning and said, ‘Boy, we're really looking for a solution for this, but as we were scanning the horizon of innovative companies, it seemed intriguing. We actually moved pretty quickly on it. And the standard arrangement is that typically, the healthcare partner does the credentialing, the managed care contracting, the billing and collecting, and Luna employs the therapists, matching the therapist to the patient, and they get reimbursed from the collections for the work that's done.”

In addition to Emory, Luna said it is collaborating with other health systems, including Scripps Health, Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, Resurgens Orthopaedics, and Modern Orthopedics. The company has more than 1,000 therapists providing services in 19 states. Therapists are able to sign up with Luna and take on new appointments, often in addition to their full-time PT jobs, allowing them to earn extra income on their own schedule, the company said.

Luna’s sales pitch to the health systems is that at least half of patients referred to physical therapy end up seeking care outside their health system or not at all. By partnering with Luna, systems are able to provide care where patients need it, making it more convenient and improving adherence without needing to build new clinics.

“The Luna patients would be ones who we're not capturing in our bricks and mortar shops, because it's too far or it's not convenient,” Boden said, “so any of these patients in theory should be additional.”

The company has a technology platform that matches patients with a therapist from Luna’s local networks based on specialty, geography, schedules, and other factors. Patients work with the same therapist throughout their care regimen, Luna said, and can use the platform to set next appointment times, perform therapist-prescribed exercises, and track their progress.