Given the costs associated with diabetes patients — more than $245 billion as of 2012 — solutions that can help patients better manage their risk factors before they get to that point would be useful. Physical therapist Darwin Fogt has developed a company called eWellness. It combines telemedicine and physical therapy to help people diagnosed with pre-diabetes prevent their condition from escalating into a costly, chronic condition.
Fogt, who is also president of Evolution Physical Therapy and Fitness near Los Angeles, thinks that the value of physical therapists has been under-appreciated.
“Physical therapy has not been given due credit in the medical community,” Fogt told MedCity News in a phone interview. “I have explored different PT niches (such as perinatal care and cancer). Pre-diabetes seems like a no-brainer.”
He views telemedicine as an effective way to reach the largest number of patients, give them the attention they need and stimulate patient engagement. “Our program could reach millions of people. If it can ensure compliance and adherence, we could make a big dent in the [future] diabetes population.”
The company is launching its platform in New York in August. It completed a reverse merger earlier this year and expects to file an S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in July before it begins trading in mid-August.
It’s collaborating with Millennium Healthcare, which employs more than 450 physicians. It plans to charge insurers $3,000 per patient. Given the long-term costs that the program could potentially help them avoid, it seems like a worthwhile investment.
Here’s how it works. When patients have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or found to be at risk for pre-diabetes by their physicians, they would be referred to eWellness. Its induction office, staffed by a physical therapist and assistant, will evaluate patients for the program.
The goal is to ensure compliance, reduce BMI to a healthy number, help patients lose weight and boost their activity level.
Patients can access a series of progressively difficult workouts in 40- to 45-minute videos from home on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. They will use a unique log-in from an application, which will securely store all their data over a six-month period. When patients log on, it triggers a camera in the physical therapists’ remote office.
Teams of four physical therapy assistants supervised by a senior physical therapist will monitor patients to ensure compliance. A remote physical therapist watches in real time while the patient is performing the exercises and guides him through his exercise sessions in real time. The therapist provides constant feedback, instruction and motivation and ensures patients are doing the exercises properly and safely. The supervising therapist can speak to the user or communicate through text message.
Patients are expected to have in-office checkups with the eWellness team every four to six weeks to evaluate their progress.
A social network component is planned to make it easier for patients to share information with each other on their progress. “The social aspect is critical to our success and it can reduce attrition,” Fogt added. Nutrition is another important part of the platform — there’s an online meal planning program.
Fogt has been developing this program for two years in collaboration with Doug MacLellan, the chairman of eWellness, CTO Curtis Hollister and David Markowski, the CFO.
Initially, eWellness will only be available in New York, before it is rolled out in other states.
Telemedicine is an area that has been a source of growing interest for physical therapy but is still in the early stages in most cases. Physical therapy figures into a remote monitoring program in Spain for elderly patients to assess their mobility and vital signs, for example.