Working as a physical therapist for nearly 10 years left Roy Shteren frustrated.
“I treated dozens of patients every day but after they left the clinic, I couldn’t continue helping them and tracking their improvement until our next session,” explains the CEO and cofounder of AI-driven tele-rehab platform WizeCare Technologies.
Shteren’s frustration turned into a business idea after his childhood friend Shai David was in a serious car accident about six years ago.
“Shai needed intensive physical therapy for months. He was frustrated by needing help driving to the clinic for treatments and not being able to progress in the comfort of his own home,” Shteren relates.
“We knew exactly what we wanted to do.”
They put together Shteren’s PT expertise with David’s expertise as an algorithm and communications engineer to enable healthcare providers to deliver supervised at-home physical therapy.
Today, Shteren reports, about 23,000 patients in Israel and the United States have used WizeCare’s product in their recovery.
He says that WizeCare brings a 45 percent reduction in costs for the provider and an 80% improvement in patient adherence to the treatment regimen.
“Many people are still using it long after their rehabilitation period has ended,” he adds.
No equipment needed but a smartphone
Shteren and David were not the first enterprising Israelis to try providing remote PT. The main reason they’re succeeding where others have failed is simplicity, says Shteren.
Unlike his cofounder, most PT patients are elderly.
“All those previous solutions were based on sensors, wearables and other equipment that was hard for elderly patients to use. They struggle with technology, and if it’s based on third-party hardware it won’t work beyond the clinic,” he says.
“We understood the need for smart technology that is available at home. This could only happen if the movement tracking and analysis runs on the patient’s own mobile device.
“Our prototype, developed with professionals in The Netherlands and Israel, is the first to do the same as sensors and wearables but with software. That is something nobody else is offering today.”
And while many Israeli health-related startups go directly to the US market, WizeCare first established itself with Israeli rehabilitation centers, hospitals and healthcare clinics.
“Starting in Israel gave us the opportunity to build a community of believers and supporters,” says Shteren. “This was a crucial factor because even if the journey [to the overseas market] is long we have customers and revenues here.”
Parkinson’s and joint-replacement patients in the US
WizeCare has several commercial collaborations in the United States and more to come.
“We worked with the Cleveland Clinic to develop and validate Parkinson’s content for WizeCare, making us one of the only platforms today that offers protocols specific to Parkinson’s patients,” says Shteren.
“The average Parkinson’s patient consumes six times more resources of money and time from a healthcare provider and it’s a big burden on the system. This tool enabling patients to do their exercises at home, without a physical therapist present, is a dramatic savings.”
The Cleveland Clinic is using WizeCare also for patients with multiple sclerosis, gait and balance disorders, and joint replacements. Validated under Medicare’s Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) model, WizeCare can eliminate or dramatically reduce home visits during the 90-day post-surgery rehab period.
“Medicare pushes technologies that can really lower costs for CJR. The Cleveland Clinic does 4,000 cases a year, so we offer them a cost reduction of about $8-12 million — and without compromising on quality of care,” says Shteren.
“I have a list of 20 healthcare providers waiting for our technology,” Shteren says.
How it works
The physical therapist constructs and shares a personal PT program for each patient. Based in the cloud, WizeCare shows clinicians when and how often the patient opens a session.
They can evaluate endurance and monitor more than one patient session at a time or do a video “virtual visit” with a patient during the session.
Within three months, Shteren hopes to launch WizeCare MoveAI, a patent pending technology that detects patients’ performance and guides them on how to do the exercises accurately.
“MoveAI will be the first to bring tracking and movement analysis to a consumer application,” says Shteren. “On top of that, the technology will be a gamechanger enabling clinicians to get performance data that used to be available only in the clinic.”
A $1.5 million seed round was successfully raised and the founders are in discussions with private and VC investors about a Series A round in the first quarter of 2021.
The pandemic may have slowed investment but only increased demand for remote healthcare solutions, Shteren says.
“We are currently overwhelmed with calls from healthcare providers in high-morbidity states to adopt the product. Corona has leveraged the potential of our product and moved Medicare, United Healthcare and other US insurers to finally open reimbursement for remote physical therapy services, in this $35 billion outpatient market.”
Based in Or Yehuda, WizeCare offers its B2B2C product to healthcare providers via a few different business models, including per-patient or monthly subscription fees.
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