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Home Health Provider Launches Telehealth Program for Physical Therapy

Visiting Nurse Service of New York will be using a telehealth platform developed by Reflexion Health to help patients recovering from joint replacement surgery continue their physical therapy at home.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- One of the nation’s largest home healthcare agencies is launching a remote patient monitoring program that uses telehealth to help post-acute care patients recover at home.

Visiting Nurse Service of New York will make the Virtual Exercise Rehabilitation Assistant (VERA) platform, developed by Reflexion Health, available to community programs and individual patients in and around New York City. Among the target populations VNSNY is looking to serve with this platform are people who have undergone lower-extremity joint replacements.

“Reflexion Health’s vision of delivering truly patient-centered care that helps patients at home, aligns with our mission to promote the health and well-being of those we serve through cost-effective care and services,” Lester Schindel, VNSNY’s Executive Vice President and Chief of Provider Services, Strategy & Physician Network Development, said in a press release. “We’re excited to partner with Reflexion Health to bring this new, innovative platform to patients and caregivers who deserve more convenient, compassionate care.”

The announcement continues a recent series of news stories supporting telehealth as a means of improving post-acute care outcomes, primarily in speeding up the physical rehab process and putting patients in virtual contact with their care providers through an RPM program.

In addition, an interstate licensure compact for physical therapists will go live in at least 15 states sometime this year, giving therapists an opportunity to use telehealth to treat patients in those member states.

More than 700,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and that number is expected to surpass 3 million by 2030 as the nation’s population ages and joint replacement surgeries become easier. The average Medicare expenditure for surgery, hospitalization, and recovery ranges from $16,500 to $33,000.

VERA’s platform uses an avatar and guided therapy exercise to help patients recovering at home from an acute care episode, such as joint replacement surgery.

Among those studying the impact of telehealth-guided rehabilitation after joint replacement surgery is Duke University, which launched VERITAS (Virtual Exercise Rehabilitation In-home Therapy: A Research Study) in late 2016. The program, overseen by Duke’s Clinical Research Institute, is tracking roughly 300 patients who have undergone total knee replacement surgery in four locations, half of which are using the VERA platform to recover.

The study is expected to conclude this March.

“Physical therapy is often a critical component of care for patients who have TKR surgery. Digital health technology, including virtual and telehealth options, may increase access, improve quality, and lower healthcare costs,” Janet Prvu Bettger, ScD, an associate professor in Duke’s Department of Orthopedic Surgery and principal investigator for the study, said in a press release. “Extending the reach of physical therapists into the home using a digital healthcare platform like VERA can provide remote guidance and supervision for a home-based therapy program; however, implementation in the U.S. has not been widely evaluated until now.”

Telehealth advocates are also paying close attention to the continued success of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement bundled payment program, which was launched in 2016 and modified last year. The CJR model makes the hospital in which the procedure takes place accountable for quality and costs of the full procedure up to 90 days after discharge. The rule waived geographic and originating site requirements that factor into reimbursement, enabling the hospital to use telehealth to facilitate the patient’s transfer to a skilled nursing facility and/or home.

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