MSK solutions Upswing Health and Hinge Health partner for virtual orthopedics

Steven Loeb · June 18, 2024 · Short URL:

The collaboration will provide an integrated care experience for clients utilizing both services

Approximately 1.71 billion people around the globe have musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions worldwide, which are the leading contributor to disability worldwide, with low back pain being the single leading cause of disability in 160 countries. These conditions significantly limit mobility and dexterity, leading to early retirement from work, lower levels of well-being, and reduced ability to participate in society. On top of that, due to population growth and ageing, the number of people living with musculoskeletal conditions and associated functional limitations, is rapidly increasing.

Virtual orthopedic care company Upswing Health is dedicated to helping people overcome these kinds of condition; however, while it provides self-help, athletic trainer-guided rehabilitation programs, it is not a PT company.

That's why the company announced a partnership on Tuesday with Hinge Health, an online MSK care and virtual physical therapy platform that has developed back and joint pain care pathways that combine wearable sensor-guided exercise therapy with behavioral change, along with one-on-one health coaching and education. Together, the companies will provide an integrated care experience for clients utilizing both services.

"We have been searching for a virtual PT partner who we can refer to when our self-help rehabilitation programs don’t resolve a patient's problem. These folks most often need a virtual PT solution," Dr. Jay Kimmel, CEO of Upswing Health, told VatorNews. 

"Now, with Hinge, we can coordinate an all virtual journey for our mutual patients AND monitor their improvement by jointly collecting patient reported outcomes. This is what the market is seeking and what is best for patients."

In order to solve the problems that MSK patients face when it comes to immediate access to care after an injury or onset of a conditionUpswing built what Kimmel calls "an all-virtual three-legged stool," meaning it presents smart technology first, 24/7/365 to give people answers to their two urgent questions from wherever they may be when the condition arises. 

Upswing's AI-driven symptom assessment tool provides a list of the patient's likely conditions and content to read about. Then, for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, they have access to its certified athletic trainers for additional guidance and advice. Finally, patients have access to Upswing's orthopedic specialists within 24 hours.

A typical use case would go like this: a patient has an injury and is eligible to access Upswing as a benefit from their employer. They log in to a customized landing page, which is unique for each employer customer, answer a few questions to validate their eligibility, and then they jump onto its symptom assessment tool which asks questions. Within seconds, the paient receives a differential list of the most likely conditions along with curated content related to each condition; Upswing has information on over 160 conditions. 

The patient then can click on a button and within minutes connect with Upswing's athletic trainers via video, audio or text; the ATs gather additional objective data using motion tracking technologies, which are web based, meaning no wearables, and then provide a unique video-based rehabilitation program for their specific condition. These programs were built by Upswing's Doctor of Physical Therapy who oversees these programs.

'Our ATs then schedule follow visits on a regular and short-term basis to avoid care gaps. Next, if the patient is not improving on follow up visits, they are seen by one of our orthopedic specialists within 24 hours, again a virtual visit," Kimmel explained.

"Our physicians can obtain X-rays and MRI scans when necessary – an all virtual experience. If formal virtual PT is indicated, as with Hinge, or an on premise office visit with a PT or orthopedic surgeon is necessary, which happens around 15% of the time, Upswing facilitates those warm handoffs."

With these tools, the company manages about 80% of low/medium acuity orthopedic problems. The company has been able to lower costs from as much as $9,554 per episode to $300 to $500 per injury, without requiring time off from work or lost productivity. 

Upswing is different from our competitors who are largely virtual PT companies, including Hinge Health, which handle chronic MSK issues and chronic MSK pain remarkably well, instead acting as a front-end top of the funnel on ramp for patients that manages conditions as they emerge and triages downstream.

It's that difference, however, that also what makes Hinge Health an ideal partner for the company, Kimmel said. 

"For years the market misunderstood the complementary, not competitive, roles that both organizations exercised in the MSK space. Upswing is a front-end top of the funnel 'catch them at their OUCH moment' solution that manages, all virtually, the majority of low/medium acuity MSK issues - from the start," he explained.

Through this collaboration, Hinge Health members, who also have access to Upswing Health, will be referred to Upswing Health's team of experts who can rapidly assess whether acute injuries need ER attention or would benefit from meeting with an Upswing Health physician within 24 hours. Meanwhile, Upswing Health members, who have access to Hinge Health, will also be referred to Hinge Health's comprehensive and personalized digital MSK and exercise therapy program.

"For Hinge, Upswing will be deployed over time as the front end entry point into the MSK space for assessment, management and triage of patients with acute injuries. The complementary nature of our models are aligned to provide patients with the full spectrum of non-surgical care - with all of the efficiencies, savings and beneficial outcomes that will accrue from this relationship," Kimmel explained. 

The ultimate intent of the partnership is that, as it matures, there should be no difference for customers that enter MSK after an injury or incident via Hinge or Upswing.

"The blending and harmonizing of the strengths of both organizations will create a very unique, seamless and aligned experience for injured patients," Kimmel said.


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