An open letter to the digital musculoskeletal care industry

We’re on the threshold of a revolution in musculoskeletal (MSK) care. The recent acquisitions, funding, and lofty plans from digital providers are signals that the market is waking up to what those of us at the forefront have known all along – digital solutions can solve the physical health crisis in this country.

This is our moment, and we get one shot to do it right. We must remember that MSK conditions are serious, and the consequences of mistreatment have cost us billions of dollars and countless lives. Solving this problem requires nothing less than the highest level of quality and care.

At SWORD, we’ve been delivering clinical-grade MSK care for five years on three continents, treating thousands of patients with chronic, acute and post-surgical conditions. We promised early on that we would always provide the highest quality of care to our members, and when we make promises, we keep them.

So today, I urge us all to make promises we can keep.

Let’s promise to treat our members with real clinicians, and only clinicians. At SWORD, our members only interact with a licensed physical therapist – never a health coach or other non-clinician – and they only ever will. The MSK system is complex, and diagnosing and treating these conditions requires deep expertise. Putting MSK sufferers in the care of non-clinicians puts members at risk of being misdiagnosed, incorrectly treated and poorly monitored. Having a clinician present for only part of the journey isn’t enough, because non-clinicians can fail to recognize patterns that may be signs of more serious issues. This means we all need to employ enough physical therapists to ensure that every member gets their own PT, and the number of PTs should far exceed the number of clients.

Let’s promise to invest in the safety and precision of our technology. We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure our sensors are safe and precise enough to provide clinical-grade care. SWORD’s Digital Therapist is an FDA-listed class II medical device. Certification is a lengthy and costly process: it took SWORD over a year to certify our sensor technology. We invest time and energy in certifying our sensors for medical use because we believe it is absolutely necessary to guarantee the best care possible. We urge others in the industry to do the same, for the health and safety of their members.

Let’s promise not to rush new treatments to market. Our solution already covers all the major MSK conditions – those affecting back, shoulder, neck, knee, hip, ankle and elbow – at any point in the journey, from prevention, to acute conditions, to chronic pain, to recovering from surgery. These programs were years in the making, and included rigorous internal and clinical testing and refinement to ensure safety and efficacy. We didn’t launch them until we were certain they could be used the very next day. We counsel the industry to take great care in developing each new treatment, recognizing that the needs of chronic, acute and post-surgical patients are unique, and each new treatment needs to be developed with care.

Let’s promise to validate our solutions against the gold standard of care. If you believe, as we do, that digital solutions deserve to become the new standard of care, the only way we’ll achieve this is by validating our programs in clinical trials against the current gold standard – traditional physical therapy. We have validated our solution against traditional PT and found it to be 30% more effective. This complements our market data – both clinical studies and real-world outcomes are needed to prove the validity and quality. Clinical trials with no control group, or where the control group receives no treatment, aren’t to be taken as proof the solution works better than the best care. They’re only proof that the solution is better than nothing at all. Controlled clinical studies are expensive and time-consuming to run, but we urge you all to invest in them.

Developing truly clinical-grade treatments takes dedication, integrity and time – and most importantly, it takes commitment at the core.

Since Day 1, we have been committed to providing a clinical-grade digital treatment, never taking shortcuts, never pretending to be something we’re not, and always keeping our promises.

At SWORD, we promise we’ll always provide clinical-grade care, for the health and safety of our members, and we hope that the rest of the industry can keep their promises, too.

Digital MSK: this is our moment. Let’s make it matter.

Yours in health,
V

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