MSU Health Care unveils virtual physical therapy program

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MSU Health Care is launching a virtual physical therapy program for rural patients, the East Lansing, Michigan-based academic medical center said Tuesday. 

MSU Health Care will work with Walnut Creek, California-headquartered startup RecoveryOne on the virtual musculoskeletal program, which will be administered in conjunction with the health system’s in-person rehabilitation services. RecoveryOne clinicians will provide virtual care under the MSU branding, while the health system’s clinicians will work with patients in person.

“Physical therapy is one of the top reasons people go to a doctor … so it’s a natural fit in terms of where we can make an impact at scale while improving access to care,” said MSU Health Care Chief Innovation and Digital Health Officer Roger Jansen.

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CMS codes spark investment

Amid financial challenges, health systems are finding reasons to invest in virtual musculoskeletal services after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services introduced remote therapeutic monitoring billing codes last year. 

RecoveryOne CEO Mark Luck Olson said no money was exchanged between the two organizations for this deal. Instead, the startup will collect a portion of the money that MSU receives for each virtual physical therapy visit.

Olson said the CMS billing codes represent a monumental shift forward for the virtual delivery of physical therapy services. RecoveryOne has worked with insurers such as Cigna to cover its services in the past.

“For the first time in the 35 years I’ve been in healthcare, there is funding for remote healthcare embedded in the reimbursement system,” Olson said. “It doesn’t require a separate contract.” 

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Reaching more rural patients 

Jansen said MSU Health Care is implementing the virtual program because 20% of its patient population lives in rural areas with a dearth of physical therapy clinicians and services. Recent infrastructure improvements in Michigan have made this kind of technology viable, he said.

“In the last two years, there’s been an extension of 5G wireless broadband networks in those rural areas,” Jansen said. “More people can access this now.” 

Jansen said that virtual physical therapy can help people avoid missing time for work or traveling through treacherous weather to get to a clinic. He also said that it can be more effective for senior citizens.

“For a lot of seniors, physical therapy is difficult to do in the morning,” Jansen said. “Being able to offer this up at different hours, when their body’s more optimally or cognitively ready to go, it will be easier for them.”

This story first appeared in Digital Health Business & Technology.

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