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Bardavon buys PeerWell in hybrid physical therapy play

Erin Brodwin
Jun 14, 2022
Illustration of a person using an exercise band made from $100 bills.
Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

In a bid to create a hybrid physical therapy experience that outlasts the digitally dominated COVID era, Bardavon Health Innovations has acquired PeerWell, the companies' executives tell Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Virtual physical therapy companies have drawn large sums from investors amid the pandemic, but the COVID slowdown gives hybrid options a leg up as patients return to some forms of in-person treatment.

Details: Bardavon paid 8-figures in a roughly even split of cash and stock for San Francisco-based PeerWell, the parties tell Axios.

  • The deal creates one of the nation's largest MSK provider networks, uniting Overland Park, Kan.-based Bardavon with San Francisco, Calif.-based PeerWell.
  • Bardavon currently works with 21,000 physical and occupational therapists across all fifty states to offer employees workers' compensation, covering an estimated 90% of the U.S. population.
  • As part of the deal, PeerWell's team of two dozen is joining Bardavon and its investors will become Bardavon shareholders.

Context: Surgeries for many injuries are considered elective or optional and, as such, were paused at the height of the pandemic.

  • With many such operations resuming, it is expected that demand for PT will soon outpace supply.

How it (will) work: Bardavon, whose providers deliver in-person physical therapy, will match patients with a virtual pathway built by PeerWell and deploy that alongside PT, says Bardavon SVP and general manager Alex Benson.

  • While digital musculoskeletal apps have surged in popularity, physical options can help ensure patients are performing exercises properly and progressing in their recovery, investors tell Axios.
  • "So in-person PT still happens and this digital part happens right alongside it," Benson says.
  • Importantly, PeerWell will be integrated with Bardavon's existing tech, a platform called bNotes, and Bardavon providers can feed relevant data about patient progress into the PeerWell pathway, says PeerWell founder and CEO Manish Shah.

By the numbers: U.S. health care spending on MSK conditions is incredibly high compared with other conditions, suggesting that solutions like those offered by Bardavon and PeerWell could be helpful.

  • A 2020 study of U.S. health care spending published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that among 154 conditions, low back and neck pain and other MSK disorders accounted for the first- and second-costliest conditions.

What they're saying: The winning MSK companies of the future will be hybrid — but they won't just offer patients in-person exercises and an app. Instead, they'll actually integrate the two in a way that feels comprehensive to patients, entrepreneurs and investors tell Axios.

  • That means "deploying virtual tools that support in-person care and doing virtual or in-person when they make sense, rather than creating two worlds that are separate," says Benjamin Schwartz, a health tech investor and orthopedic surgeon.
  • Shah of PeerWell says, "As we stand up these hybrid models, they’re great in and of themselves, but if they’re not talking to each other, it’s not working."
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