South Side startup helps therapists motivate patients

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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 doctors to their patients.

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 his or her exercises.

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

"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.

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 pop.

After some market exploration, the year-and-a-half-old company -- with a team composed of five twenty-somethings, most of whom studied or graduated from the University of Pittsburgh -- decided to keep the name but change its focus, pivoting the product toward physical therapy.

"It just seemed like a really good fit," said James Lomuscio, 24, co-founder and CEO, citing the importance of the completion of home exercises for physical therapists and their patients.

Steve Gough, CEO of Allegheny Chesapeake Physical Therapy, called DropKicker's idea "very clever," and said it was a promising tool, especially for patients who need encouragement to complete home exercises.

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

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.

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