How Skilled Nursing Facilities Can Boost Rehab with Virtual Avatars

The senior care market has been invaded by robots aiming to assist patients at every level of care. And now one technology company is seeking to create avatars for seniors to recover after surgery at skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) or at home.

Reflexion Health, a San Diego-based technology startup, aims to improve the health of seniors after a hospital discharge by engaging them in a virtual rehabilitation and physical therapy platform, called VERA (Virtual Exercise Rehabilitation Assistant).

“The goal is to see if you can take technology and guide patients to do self-directed rehabilitation and physical therapy,” Reflexion Health President and CEO Joe Smith said during a recent presentation of the company’s technology at the Post Acute Link Care Continuum Conference in Chicago.


For example, seniors in need of rehabilitation services following joint replacement surgery can utilize the platform to perform rehabilitation services without a certified professional every session. The system, VERA, creates a digitized avatar for patients to follow and follow physical exercises as recommended by their doctors. So far, the system is gaining adoption and seeing real results.

Supplemental System

While the VERA system can be implemented at home, it is not meant to supplant other health care services; instead, it’s designed to complement them. Seniors can follow along to their rehab plans on their own, but will still likely need to be seen by a professional therapist from time to time to ensure they are improving, Smith said.


“Physical therapists love it until they think they are being replaced by technology,” Smith said.

The true difference in using the virtual system versus traditional rehab is the price. For someone needing long-term rehab, paying for several months or even a year of traditional rehab with a therapist is not realistic, Smith said. With VERA, patients get the affordable rehab they need with real-time support at home.

And the system isn’t just being used at home for patients following a joint replacement surgery.

Without a direct to consumer model, the business model works differently depending on where the system is used. In a bundled payment model, Reflexion Health charges on a per-patient, per-episode basis. Within a SNF, VERA is used at a kiosk, and an unlimited number of patients can utilize its programs, Smith explained. VERA is leased to SNFs on a monthly rate basis.

The company is exploring options to expand its services, including a potential real-time response application to falls and adding other therapies.

Compliance Conundrum 

One of the biggest issues within rehabilitation and physical therapy services is compliance. For one, it’s common practice for patients to be given a piece of paper with their physical therapy or rehab plan on it for them to do at home. This method leaves lots of room for error, and there is no way for physicians and care professionals to truly track if patients are completing their recommended exercises and rehab activities, according to Smith.

In typical physical therapy, the average compliance rate is 42.7% with plans averaging 55 days, Smith said. And that just means patients “did something”—not that they necessary followed their rehab plans exactly and performed the activities correctly.

VERA, by comparison, has an average compliance rate of 77.9%, with plans averaging just 26 days, meaning the system works faster, is cheaper and ensures greater compliance, according to Smith. Not to mention, VERA is an FDA-approved platform according to Smith.

With VERA, patients’ activities are tracked—and even corrected. Using camera monitoring that measures body movement, the system creates an avatar of each person using the system to ensure they are doing the exercises and movements.

“It gives them an avatar of what they should be doing and then measures against what they are actually doing,” Smith explained.

If movements are off, then the system will prompt recommendations to correct positioning of the patients. On average, patients spend 26 minutes per day engaged with VERA.

Written by Amy Baxter

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