Pittsburgh firm's app keeps patients on track with exercises

Physical therapists use DropKickerPT to send text reminders

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Did you do your exercises?

The question, a familiar one posed at physical therapy appointments, may soon be asked between office visits, via text messages sent from doctor to patient.

That's the idea put forth by a South Side startup that calls itself DropKicker and its product, a cloud-based, text messaging service that encourages physical therapy patients to keep up their therapist-prescribed exercises, DropKickerPT.

Physical therapists can use the service to send pre-written reminders and encouragement to their patients about doing their home exercises, then keep a log of how regularly the patient is completing those exercises.

"Really, this is a physical therapist's window into the patient's experience of physical therapy at home," said Adam Nelson, 26, the company's co-founder and its chief creative officer.

Through DropKickerPT, patients will also have the option to recruit a team -- friends and family members -- who can be included in the messages as a form of positive peer pressure to encourage progress.

DropKicker, currently located in the AlphaLab building on East Carson Street, was originally envisioned as a consumer service to help people drop or kick bad habits, such as smoking or drinking too much soda.

After some market exploration, the 11/2-year-old company -- with a five-person team composed of 20-somethings -- decided to keep the name but change its focus to pivoting the product toward physical therapy. "It just seemed like a really good fit," said James Lomuscio, 24, co-founder and CEO.

The reminder notes, as well as follow-up text messages giving positive reinforcement if a patient completes the exercises, can help keep patients on track, resulting in fewer office visits and a faster recovery, Mr. Lomuscio said.

"Ultimately, I feel like DropKicker is going to be most valuable to an insurance company," he said.

A couple of physical therapists in the Pittsburgh area have been testing the device with their patients in recent weeks, and they gave the program positive reviews.

Steve Gough, CEO of Allegheny Chesapeake Physical Therapy, called DropKicker's idea "very clever."

Some patients do all their exercises, but others need encouragement, and for that segment of the population, he said it was a promising tool.

"I think that any technology that can help accelerate a patient's care, and return to recovery, is a huge benefit," he said.

Two of his physical therapists are testing the product, including Jessica Dembowski in Allegheny Chesapeake's Butler office. She has been sending daily text messages about home exercises to five of her patients for the past two weeks.

"I like it," she said. "I think it encourages compliance with my patients with their exercises."

For now, DropKickerPT remains in testing mode. But DropKicker, the company, plans to make its product available to physical therapists this fall through its website, www.playdropkicker.com.

Users will get a 90-day free trial, and then the monthly cost will likely range from $100 to $500, depending on the number of physical therapists using it, Mr. Lomuscio said.

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Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.


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