Sramana Mitra: Innovation in your industry is also happening on another vector – in treatment. I actually introduced a company from our portfolio to Heidi a few months ago that has a laser-based pain treatment device. We have one in our portfolio. There’s quite a bit of work going on out there in various kinds of pain treatments and physiotherapy-related treatment besides exercise. What is your view point on that?
Nancy Ham: You’re right. There’s a wealth of innovation happening now with approaches to pain. There are virtual solutions that are movement-based. There are physical solutions, disposables, or meditation apps. There’s a wealth of innovation. We don’t view that as our area to invent.
What we do though is, we try to meet and understand a lot of cool, young companies. We invite them to be part of what’s called our marketplace. We have a robust online store where clinics can buy physical goods, capital goods, and virtual goods. When we come across really interesting innovations, the first step is to just bring them into our partner ecosystem and understand if they need data from us. Do we need data from them?
We have them join the marketplace and sell themselves to the therapists. In the case of Strive Labs, we ended up buying the company. We’re not involved in clinical care. What you described is something we put on the other side of the line for our clinic operators.
Sramana Mitra: The marketplace is interesting. What you have is a very interesting channel for new products to go to market. Selling to the clinics one by one is tricky, but if you have a marketplace through which these clinics are buying new innovation, that’s actually quite interesting.
Nancy Ham: We also showcase new products at our Ascend Conference. Ascend is a conference we put together. It’s not a user conference though. It’s an industry conference. We have an innovation track. Last year, I showcased five companies doing virtual and digital rehab.
We also have a physical marketplace. We have an exhibit hall where people can bring their innovation. It gets exposed to a lot of the leadership in the industry. I hang around a lot listening to these conversations.
Sramana Mitra: Where do you see open problems in your space?
Nancy Ham: As I mentioned, it starts with 90% of the people who would benefit from physical therapy but don’t ever start. That’s a massive opportunity as a society because those people are on alternative forms of treatment that might be more expensive like injections, imaging, and surgery. They might be on forms of treatment that are addictive like opioids. They might be just sitting home on their couch in pain.
Everyone I talk to in this industry talks about that. What can we collectively do to better educate consumers about the value of physical therapy, about the fact that in most states, they have the right of direct access. They don’t need a physician referral. They can just go to physical therapy. There’s just this huge opportunity on the consumer side.
There’s also an opportunity to think about, and maybe invent, a more integrated approach. Right now, there’s this continuum of health and wellness, but they’re very siloed. You might go to your gym for personal training. You might go to a massage therapist, a chiropractor, or an acupuncturist. You might go to physical therapy.
A better way would be to integrate more holistically through training, prevention, injury recovery, and performance. That’s an area of innovation I’m quite interested in. Some of our members are doing quite interesting things in that regard.