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Utah Business

Looking for physical therapy in Utah? Biotech startup, SWORD Health is changing the way patients approach physical therapy. Here's how.

Double-unicorn SWORD Health allows you to take your physical therapy anywhere

About only 30 percent of patients counseled to do physical therapy complete their regimens, even when completely covered by insurance plans. As a result, millions of people are not receiving the full breadth of musculoskeletal care they likely need to reach full recovery post-injury. And physical therapy practices are missing out on massive revenue potential—estimated to be an average of $250,000 per year—due to patient non-completion of exercise prescriptions.

Could this be due to the inconvenience of in-person physical therapy? These sessions often take place in small community practices where patients are piled into small exercise rooms while a physical therapist jumps person-to-person and spends a few moments with each one to guide some repetitive, mundane, and often painful functional movements. This general setup is becoming less and less feasible for today’s on-to-go clientele. And with the emergence of highly intelligent machine-body interfaces on our at-home devices, mobile health tracking keeps more patients out of these crowded clinics, facilitating more healthcare and healing at home and on the road. 

Draper-based Sword Health has introduced a new age of digital musculoskeletal care to the healthcare market with a physical therapist-informed digital musculoskeletal platform—the world’s first clinical-grade digital solution proven to outperform the traditional in-person physical therapy experience. And they have now become the country’s fastest-growing musculoskeletal health company, reaching double-unicorn status with its recent $2 billion valuation. 

“I don’t know of another company to reach this level of valuation in less than two years,” says Kyle Spackman, SVP of commercial at Sword Health. “We had great timing. With the rise of Covid and remote technologies, we were able to win a lot of business.” 

Spackman believes that Sword’s “secret sauce” is its software platform, for which the company now has over a dozen active patents. Users receive a tablet loaded with this software, along with small attachable sensors about the size of an AirPods case. The sensors are placed on the user’s body, sending motion feedback back to the tablet depending on the regions being exercised. As the user goes through the exercise regimen outlined, the sensors will notify the digital therapist, who will then instruct the user in real-time to adjust their form or motion accordingly. It’s fully customizable to body type, exercise regimen, and region of the body. 

The technology utilizes three components for motion capture: an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer. 

“The sensors themselves aren’t really that special or unique—it’s the software algorithms within the device that allow for AI data analytics to take place,” Spackman says. 

Prospective patients are clinically screened through a few simple questions and preferences provided by the user. They are then matched with a real-life physical therapist with whom they meet virtually to discuss upcoming treatment plans. After each exercise tracked by the device asynchronously, the real-life physical therapist is notified and can then review the data produced by the AI algorithms and can provide clinical feedback along the road to recovery. All without any need for the patient to come into the clinic physically—and with a lot more objective data to base their care. 

Sword’s technology can help treat every joint in the body except for the small joints in the fingers and toes (due to hard-to-place sensors, difficulty receiving feedback, etc.). With an eye toward the future, Sword is hiring hundreds of employees in the coming months—many in SLC but with remote capacity—including an industry-leading Chief Medical Officer

“We believe in physical therapists. We employ dozens of them. We are not trying to replace them in the healthcare system,” Spackman says. “Our platform represents a unique, exciting combination of innovative technology, making a solid difference in peoples’ lives while also doing good in society as a whole.”

Jeremie is an experienced MedTech and healthcare consultant, research scientist, entrepreneur, and clinician-in-training. He is passionate about identifying clinical shortcomings and developing patient-centered solutions through novel therapeutic approaches, healthcare delivery optimization, and translational research innovation.