Reflexion Health, a San Diego startup developing a system that uses Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensing system to help physical therapy patients with their rehab, has raised $4.25 million in seed funding from the West Health Investment Fund.
Reflexion CEO and co-founder Spencer Hutchins tells me the company plans to use the funding to advance development of its interactive software, and to test the idea of marketing its technology as “prescription software.” Instead of selling its software as a service directly to consumers, Reflexion plans to enroll doctors and physical therapists as resellers who would prescribe the program in much the same way caregivers prescribe other medical products.
The approach would be fundamentally different from asking caregivers to recommend the system as “a tool you can use on your own,” Hutchins says.
The Web-based technology is being spun out of San Diego’s West Health Institute, which lifted the curtain last month on a prototype system called the Reflexion Rehabilitation Measurement Tool (RMT). Reflexion is the second startup to emerge from the nonprofit institute, and is following the wireless fetal monitor startup Sense4Baby across the institute’s parking lot and into the nearby West Health Incubator.
The West Health Investment Fund, West Health Incubator, West Health Institute, and West Health Policy Center are affiliated organizations, and they share a mutual goal of working to reduce the costs of healthcare. The telemarketing billionaires Gary and Mary West established all four organizations, although the investment fund and incubator were created as for-profit entities, while the institute and policy center are nonprofits supported by the Gary and Mary West Foundation.
In a telephone interview, Reflexion’s Hutchins says the entire equity round came from the West Health Investment Fund, and will be used by Reflexion to demonstrate the “usability, improved patient adherence, and increased efficacy” of its RMT system over the current standard of care for physical therapy patients. To accomplish that, he startup will need to grow beyond its 10 current staffers (including contract employees), and Hutchins says Reflexion also is aggressively hiring additional software engineers.
Landing all $4.25 million in one fell swoop presumably gives Reflexion a jump on Jintronix, a two-year-old Montreal startup that also has been developing a Kinect-based system for rehabilitating both physical therapy and stroke patients. Jintronix won the $50,000 top prize in July at Montreal’s International Startup Festival, and is reportedly now seeking additional seed funding.
But Hutchins says the fact another startup also has been developing a Kinect system for use in physical therapy doesn’t mean that he’s already working to differentiate Reflexion and its technology.
“I’d say we’re more focused on demonstrating the utility of apps like this,” as an example of prescription software, Hutchins says. In any case, he says the market is big enough for more than one player, as Americans spend about $127 billion each year on musculoskeletal rehabilitation, according to estimates from the American Academy of Orthopedaedic Surgeons.
Hutchins says the system uses the Kinect for Windows’ motion tracking system and a personal computer, and provides interactive feedback and educational information to patients while they are exercising. Physical therapists and physicians will eventually be able to use the system to monitor a patient’s rehabilitation progress, improve patient adherence to the prescribed therapy, and ensure the exercises are performed correctly.
In a rehab following knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), for example, Hutchins says there are “classic moments” when a patient’s knee is feeling better, but in reality the graft is not yet ready for intensive exercise. The Reflexion system could help physical therapists and other caregivers ensure that patients don’t inadvertently re-injure themselves by overdoing their rehab, Hutchins says.
As prescribed software, the system would be closely tied into rehab protocols. As a result, Hutchins says, “We’re already in conversations with the FDA about how they would look at this.”