Patient Testimonial: Antonio A., “If I ever undergo another surgery, I’ll demand to use the Digital Therapist again”

Antonio runs a busy life. When we called him for a 6 pm interview, he asked if we could make it quick because he had to leave for work. António is a waste collector, and heavy jobs like his don’t comply with nine-to-five schedules.
Antonio spends his nights hopping on and off a garbage truck, so things looked quite dim when he had to undergo knee surgery. Antonio relies on his knees to perform his job quickly and effectively, up and down from the truck again and again for eight hours in a row.
On top of that, Antonio lives 30 miles away from the physical therapy center he was supposed to attend. “The insurance company would cover the costs, but I would still have to go back and forth, I’d easily spend three hours a day for one therapy session.”
Antonio didn't want to waste his precious time, so he decided to use it more wisely. As he puts it himself "I could take the time it would take me to have just one session in a traditional therapy facility and have three physical therapy sessions with the Digital Therapist.

"It was way better than traditional physical therapy"

Antonio is the ultimate SWORD Health champion: he had sessions on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve.
We talked to Antonio almost one year after he started treatment and he is assertive: “It was way better than traditional physical therapy. Even now, almost a year after I finished treatment, I am pretty sure it wouldn’t have gone better. I could have therapy more times, at home, I didn’t have to move around.”
Antonio is not a tech-savvy guy, but when we warily wondered about how easy it was for him to adapt to this tech-driven approach to physical therapy, he laughed and quickly said “I had no problem at all, it was easy to use. (...) I didn’t feel the need for more support from the physical therapists. The device was built to replicate their presence, and they could adjust the sessions whenever they needed.”
Thrilled as we were to learn that, we wanted to know if the recovery process ever got lonely. Antonio’s quick answer is reassuring: “I felt [my physical therapists'] guidance throughout the entire process, they were and still are available," even almost one year after the treatment came to an end.
It must really be the case because running, the hobby Antonio had dropped after knee surgery, is slowly being picked up under their guidance: “They advised me not to rush it, so I’m taking it slow, but I’m back on the running track.”

Feb 15, 2019 • 2 min read

Physical Therapist Testimonial: Sara L., “This is not a job. It’s a cause”

Think of the stock photo version of a physical therapist. The kind smile, the reassuring eyes, the trustworthy expression - that’s Sara. Sara left her family, her hometown, and 10 years of work behind her to join our team because “I had been working within the pattern for many years and I realized that was not enough for me. SWORD is bold and I needed boldness in my life”.
Sara can’t stand still: she recruits and trains our Physical Therapy teams in the field and launches SWORD Therapy’s clinical operation within partner institutions. Nonetheless, she still manages to fit patient sessions into her tight schedule because “my patients are my people”.
Having Sara with us is a product of sheer chance. When she was working at a physical therapy center, one of her patients wanted to complement the traditional Physical Therapy he was having with SWORD Therapy. Sara wanted to be there for her patient’s first session and when the session started she couldn’t believe what she was seeing: “I couldn’t mask my awe. I was there as a spectator, but I couldn’t help but say “This is it. This is exactly what needs to be done, this makes complete sense”. I stayed in touch with the team and they eventually reached out with an invitation to join SWORD Health.”

I wanted to make a bigger dent in people’s lives

There never was a shadow of a doubt: “I had been [at my former job] for ten years, I had made the changes I thought were fit, my mission there had been accomplished. I work with a sense of mission, of purpose, and with SWORD I could make a bigger dent in people’s lives”. The size of that dent is Sara’s measure for success, or as she puts it, “I care about this company’s success not out of a desire for pride or wealth but because that’s how I know we’ve reached millions of patients. That’s all I care about”.
Sara isn’t only determined, she is also very rigorous. From the recruitment process (“We ditch a lot of excellent physical therapists because they don’t have the human fit we are looking for”) to patient enrollment (“Patients don’t get days off. They must have therapy on bank holidays, on weekends, on vacations - it’s for their own good. But because they are doing it at home, there always has to be someone on the other side of the line in case they need us”), Sara holds everyone involved in the recovery process in a loving but tight grip.

We have moved past the leap of faith phase, now we have hard clinical evidence

Another example of Sara’s dedication is the gallery of people she has converted to SWORD’S innovative way of doing physical therapy, be them doctors, patients or fellow physical therapists.
Her conversion methods adapt to her audience: with physicians and physical therapists, she uses hard evidence and patient reports (“They are always a little wary but as we start recovering the first, second, third patient, they start believing in what we do and become involved”).
With patients, the process is a little harder: “You can have a protocol for everything but people and some people think they’ll never be able to do this. In the first session, people always say “I’m never going to be able to memorize all of this”. And I tell them “The thing is you don’t have to. The Digital Therapist guides you through every step you take, all you have to memorize is how to turn it on.” We’re treating people here, it’s hard enough as it is for them, they are not supposed to have to learn a new skill to be treated.”
Think about the stock photo version of a physical therapist again. Now tell us if this isn’t exactly the answer you’d hope to get for the question “What’s the best part of your job?”: “I love it when they call me months after they finished therapy and tell me “Sara, I’m doing fine! How are you?””

Feb 7, 2019 • 3 min read

A Round-Up on the Opioid Epidemic

The growing awareness of the toll opioid consumption is taking on the US population had a substantial boost last week with accusations of failure to address the public health problem coming from within the FDA. The head of the agency's opioid advisory committee stated it had failed to learn its lessons and keeps approving strong opioid painkillers, thus putting the interests of big pharma ahead of public health.
In the meantime, concern comes from every side of public life: from the Senate, who sent a letter to the FDA’s commissioner showing atonement towards the fact they keep approving new medication, to Walgreen's board of investors, who required the company to show how it's monitoring and managing risks related to the opioid crisis. The world is starting to acknowledge how big a problem we have between our hands.

Terrifying Numbers

The most recent CDC report stated that 18% of the general population reports illicit drug use or prescription drug misuse somewhere in the past year. Add to this a baffling recent update from the National Safety Council showing that people are now more likely to die from a drug overdose than in a car accident.
With 4.3% of the general population being prescribed opioids and a 33% addiction rate associated with them, this easily ends up translating into 130 people dying from overdoses in the US every day.
Furthermore, if we assume that the most regular users of prescribed opioids are people with arthritis and back pain (63% of prescribed opioids users report the first and 59% report the latter) and add to that the recent studies showing that physical therapy combined with behavioral intervention can substitute opioid intake in many cases, it becomes very apparent that physical therapy plays a very relevant role in tackling the opioid epidemic.

Finding new solutions is crucial

Expert entities including the American College of Physicians are advocating for exercise programs and patient education as a first-line treatment option for chronic muscle and joint pain. At SWORD Health, we have conducted clinical studies that demonstrated our novel digital therapy intervention can reduce pain levels by 33% in just four weeks, all the while keeping people away from prescription opioids.
We know that addressing this problem requires a multifold approach that comprises local, immediate action as much as systematic prevention. By creating cost-effective digital physical therapy at home and combining it with behavioral intervention and patient education, we are helping people stay away from opioids in the very first place.
If you need more information about SWORD Health or need help in making this change happen in your workforce or your population, our team is here to help.

About SWORD Health:
SWORD Health is a tech-enabled provider of physical therapy pairing its AI-powered digital therapists with human clinical teams to recover patients faster and better. SWORD Health’s digital therapist cuts Healthcare system’s operational costs by half while providing patients with more convenient and effective physical therapy at home.

Jan 30, 2019 • 3 min read

Patient Testimonial: Jose A., “I sometimes even answered back to the Digital Therapist”

Jose leads a painting unit in a factory that builds buses. He’s responsible for painting thousands of buses a year, and he lives up to that responsibility with a humble smile. The only time a smack of anguish taints this interview comes when he talks about the 130 people he leads: “Many people, many families depend on me,” he says, “and this is why I had to come back to work as soon as possible."
Jose is a chipper, lively 58-years-old guy who had to undergo two hip replacement surgeries in one year. So when one of our physical therapists approached him before his first surgery to explain what SWORD Health’s digital therapist is about, he quickly overcame any doubts he might have:
“I had already had traditional physical therapy before. I had to rush out of the office, deal with the traffic and find a parking space. [When I finally started therapy] the therapist would come over, tell me which exercises to perform and then leave to check on another patient. I didn’t even know if I was doing the exercises correctly.”

Physical therapy made easy

SWORD Health was a no-brainer for Jose: “I could leave work at 7 or 7:30 pm” and still make it in time to have therapy at home. Persistent as he is, he continuously tried to beat his records and, even if he had evening arrangements: “I would leave at 10:45 pm so that I wouldn’t miss a session”. It came to the point that he started bickering with the digital therapist, “but she always ended up being right.”
So when the time came for the second hip surgery, “I called Sarah [his physical therapist] and said: “I need my left leg to recover as well as the right leg did.” It was an amazing recovery; even my doctor said I should get a gold medal for hip surgery recoveries.” It must really be the case because the medical board that evaluated Jose’s ability to go back to work was astonished as well.
Jose had medical permission to go back to work one and a half month after surgery, an absolute achievement. Jose knows his perseverance played a crucial role in his recovery: “I felt a huge responsibility towards myself and you guys. Compliance is essential. (...) It’s one thing to do the exercises; to do them correctly is an entirely different thing. This [feedback] is why I found your product so interesting. There is no doubt it was really helpful to work with SWORD Health.”
Jose started working at age 13, and he comes from a generation that didn’t get as much formal education as the younger people working with him. Someone a little less kind-hearted would probably belittle the relevance of formal education in favor of their personal journey, but Jose sees it as an advantage: “I always tell my team to learn from our experience but also to integrate whatever knowledge they have acquired to make our work better.”
This love of progress is part of the reason why he felt so compelled to work with us: “I’m used to working with innovative projects and people, so I fully embraced [SWORD].” Lucky us.

Jan 23, 2019 • 3 min read

2018: SWORD Health’s Year in Review and Look Ahead

For SWORD Health, 2018 was the year to dare, to double down on our promise of bringing innovation into the world of physical therapy. So at the dawn of 2019, it’s time to wrap up all the things that happened in the past year and to launch some challenges at the year to come.

SWORD Therapy empowers more patients

In 2018, our innovative therapy reached more people and more markets. And the numbers reflect that scale: That is triple-digit growth in three different categories: minutes spent in therapy, saved trips to rehabilitation centers and the overall number of patients treated. Giving patients the ability to recover at home is crucial to keep their motivation high, and it saves them time and effort. This is why these numbers reflect much more than anecdotes around how many trips around the world we saved or how many songs fit into the minutes of therapy we delivered this year. This is patient empowerment happening before us and that is the fulfillment of our core goal.

Our Digital Therapy is the new gold standard of physical therapy

Besides patients’ validation, we also topped the year with four studies that demonstrated the clinical effectiveness of our digital therapist. This includes a landmark article in Nature Scientific Report proving our combined Digital Therapist and clinical team approach has better outcomes for patients than a physical therapist working one-to-one with patients. The endorsement of the scientific community strengthened our belief in the difference we are making. This was also the year we closed a seed investment round of $4,6 million that was led by a mix of American and European investors, and we are thrilled to have them with us for the years to come.

New Year’s Wishes

We made the best out of 2018, but we are doubling down on that bet again. We leave with the takeaway message from our CEO, Virgílio Bento: “2018 was the year we went from hope, to promise, to reality. For the first time ever, we enabled patients from all over the world to recover in the comfort of their home with our Digital Therapists. In 2019, we’ll continue to deliver on our mission to define the next 50 years of the physical therapy world, only now we’ll leave an even bigger global footprint.”

Jan 15, 2019 • 2 min read

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