Upswing Health harmonizes human touch with AI-driven technology to assess MSK pain

Jay Kimmel, M.D., CEO, and Co-founder

By Melane Sampson

Closely-held Upswing Health, a virtual orthopedic company, is reinventing orthopedic care delivery through its virtual orthopedic musculoskeletal symptom assessment tool and customized pain management program, leveraging AI technology to enhance patients’ personalized healthcare and outcomes.

“Upswing Health is a virtual, first front door of care and complete orthopedic navigation and management solution that is affordable and easy to access,” Jay Kimmel, M.D., CEO, and co-founder of Upswing Health, says in an interview with BioTuesdays.

Dr. Kimmel, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, recalls that he and co-founder Steve Schutzer, M.D., and Chief Medical Officer, Upswing Health, established the company in 2018 to provide people with musculoskeletal pain immediate access to care with AI-based symptom assessment screening, on-demand consultations with certified athletic trainers, and telehealth visits with orthopedic physicians.

“Originally, we were a company focused on providing athletes with a virtual first option,” Dr. Kimmel says. “But, we quickly realized that everyone is an athlete, so we have evolved into a virtual solution for any orthopedic problem.”

A series of proprietary algorithms were created to duplicate the doctor-patient experience and provide access to approximately 160 orthopedic musculoskeletal conditions, Dr. Kimmel explains. Within 15 minutes of using the virtual symptom assessment tool, a patient can speak with an athletic trainer who walks them through the results, provides a customized physical therapy rehab program, and follows up the next day to determine whether a different approach is needed such as an MRI or a telehealth visit with a primary care sports medicine doctor that can be scheduled within 24 hours.

“We triage patients,” Dr. Kimmel says. “Upswing puts people on the right track from the moment they are injured, helping to avoid costly and unnecessary six-hour waits in the ER.” Studies have shown that approximately 80% of the time, Upswing delivers positive patient outcomes virtually, he added.

The company was recently selected as the state of Connecticut’s virtual orthopedic solution for more than 200,000 employees after an unpaid Phase I pilot study with the SOCTHP consisting of 500 employees revealed a cost savings of $1,100 per encounter, Dr. Kimmel attests.

Under the new Consolidated Approbations Act (CAA), transparent, high-quality costs in healthcare have become paramount to employers, Dr. Kimmel points out. “Healthtech companies, such as Upswing, offer measurable value to employers by assisting with the management of an enormous annual healthcare spend.”

There is a worldwide need for orthopedic injury information evidenced by the more than 2000 users per day who are accessing the symptom assessment tool on the Upswing Health website, Dr. Kimmel notes. “Anyone can access our symptom checker free of charge but there is a growing demand for individual access to our treatment programs and health coaches so next month we are launching a direct-to-consumer monetized option where people may sign in for personalized orthopedic healthcare,” he adds.

One in three Americans will spend money on orthopedic issues each year with 364 million lost working days due to orthopedic injuries and $420 billion in annual costs for payers, Dr. Kimmel contends. A large majority of these issues are low- to medium-acuity MSK problems that can be assessed and treated virtually.

“Primary care doctors today are often overwhelmed,” Dr. Kimmel suggests. “Partnering with virtual companies, such as Upswing, provides them with a second opinion and the option to work hand-in-hand to triage and manage their patients’ MSK issues.”

Upswing Health expects to launch version three of its symptom assessment tool in the last quarter of 2023. Dr. Kimmel indicates that the improved AI-powered symptom checker will ask users a series of questions with interactive visual images, PDFs, and videos along with embedded, curated exercises and actionable information that assists in assessing injuries and determining the next steps.

Dr. Kimmel says having received Institutional Review Board approval, Upswing Health has completed enrollment of patients in a double-blind clinical study commencing in the first quarter of 2024. “We are really looking forward to presenting our findings because while we are a value-based orthopedic care solution, concerned with saving healthcare costs for employers, we very much want to make sure people are having a good experience with positive outcomes,” he adds.

“The orthopedic market is enormous and our platform allows us to sell our technology alone or in partnership with our providers,” Dr. Kimmel says. “Upswing’s symptom assessment tool covers the entire orthopedic continuum and is the only pure-play orthopedic symptom checker on the market.”

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