June 7, 2023 | Net Health

4 min read

What You Need to Know: Revolutionize Your Rehab with Digital MSK

Two factors are driving a new U.S.-based movement in musculoskeletal (MSK) health – known as digital musculoskeletal (or digital MSK) – that aims to revolutionize the delivery and cost of therapeutic care and “telerehab”.

Here is what you should know: 

  1. A lot of people are in pain. One in two U.S. adults, for example,
    experience back, neck, shoulder, or other musculoskeletal pain.1 
  1. Few people are being treated for MSK pain. One study shows that
    just 10% of adults utilize in-person physical therapy services each year,2
    a low percentage when you consider physical therapy is one of the most
    effective avenues for the treatment and prevention of MSK ailments. 

As these and other statistics show, a curious valley lies between those experiencing discomfort and those who choose to do something about it.

So, what issues are causing this gap, and how might those suffering from MSK pain and limitations more seamlessly access effective treatment options? 

The effort to answer these questions has led multiple innovators and investors to develop a framework for virtual physical therapy care delivery they hope will empower more people to find relief. This can make digital therapeutic care more accessible, convenient and cost-effective.

This model of care, which in many ways piggybacks on the successful application of telehealth treatment options – or telerehab therapies – during the COVID-19 pandemic, is called digital MSK. 

digital MSK and telerehab innovation

What is Digital MSK?  

Digital musculoskeletal therapy, or digital MSK (dMSK) is a model for physical therapy-based care delivery that leverages digital health technologies and digital therapeutics for the relief and treatment of musculoskeletal ailments and pain.

This involves the use of smartphones, tablets and/or computers for treating and managing common conditions affecting the bones, joints, muscles, and connective tissues. 

Digital MSK therapy can come in several forms, including: 

It may also involve home exercise tracking, virtual health coaching, digital apps for self-assessment and health/exercise management, and general education and support. 

Overall, the goal of digital MSK is to make musculoskeletal care more accessible, convenient, and cost–effective for the public, lowering the personal barriers of time, distance, availability, and socio–economic status through technology. ‘

Net Health and APTA have partnered to usher in the future of virtual physical therapy care. Learn more here.

Who is Offering Digital MSK? 

The emergence of digital MSK in the American market has been led by Silicon Valley-type startups, some of which have been supported by hundreds of millions of dollars from venture capitalists. 

As these companies continue to grow, you may begin to recognize their names. Hinge Health and Sword Health, for example, stand out as two of the larger players in the digital MSK market, part of a “macro boom” that is emerging within digital therapeutics. 

With such force behind their efforts, these and other digital therapeutic companies will most certainly serve as a disruptive force within the rehab therapy market. This, some outpatient rehab therapists fear, could alter patient perception and expectations to the point where digital MSK could become a threat. 

Understanding, learning from, and even adopting concepts based on digital MSK, however, can help soften this threat while strengthening the delivery of outpatient rehab therapy care

What Can I Do Today About Digital MSK? 

At Net Health, our rehab therapy team understands the challenges faced by outpatient and private practice clinics. And because we live and work ahead of the technological curve, we are quick to recognize and evaluate current trends based on how they may affect the rehab therapy industry. 

In the case of digital MSK, we love the use of technology to reach more people who suffer from pain and injury. What is not to like about that? 

What we would prefer, though, is to see these efforts powered at the local and regional level, not from Silicon Valley. Experienced outpatient rehab therapists know their communities and the needs of their patients best, so we would like to see digital MSK efforts develop at the private practice level. 

Conclusion on Digital MSK

While the heavy use of technology for such efforts may spook some clinicians, our team of experienced physical therapists and data scientists are here to offer our expertise. 

To learn more about the emergence of digital MSK and how you might tailor a solution to offer digital therapeutic solutions to your clients, schedule a demo with Net Health. We’d be happy to advise you, let’s talk. 

1 Bone and Joint Initiative USA, “The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States,” 2015. 
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Physical, Speech, Rehabilitative, or Occupational Therapy Use Among Adults Aged 25-64, by Veteran Status,” August 2022. 

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