How iPlena Сompany Utilized AI in Physiotherapy
This story was originally published on the Neurons Lab blog on Feb 28, 2022.
At Neurons Lab, we have started a series of interviews to share ideas and the specifics of adopting AI in distinct industries and areas.
Today, the CEO of iPlena, osteopath, physiotherapist, and entrepreneur, Alexander, who was amazingly quick to respond to our interview request, will talk about innovating his physiotherapy clinics with the help of AI.
We will discuss his journey in the medical field, his approach to diagnostics and treatment, and, of course, his AI-based solution. We thank Alex for participating in the Neurons Lab interview and sharing several insights.
00:00 Anton: Hello Alexander! It’s great to have you in this interview. I’m sure you have plenty of ideas and knowledge to discuss with me today and are looking forward to sharing your thoughts with our colleagues.
Anton, Q1: Before we start talking about business, I’d like to hear the answer to a fundamental question about your background, just to open this conversation the right way.
00:28 Alexander: Hello, Anton. Thank you for the introduction. My name is Alexander. I’m 28 years old. I work in Germany; I’ve been an osteopath and physiotherapist for seven years.
00:42 I’m already an entrepreneur, I have three clinics, and we have 20,000 appointments a year at these clinics. So it’s quite a big deal there. And why we are growing so fast — that’s because we see the problem, see our differences from other physiotherapists or osteopaths.
01:06 We want to enhance the engagement of our clients. We want to make our clients feel more responsible for their health. And we don’t want to be a physiotherapist and clinic where you go to and say: “Please press here, because I have pain here, then press there, and then they go home, and then they come again, then we press again. This is a typical physiotherapist with no holistic approach.
01:32 So that’s what we are making different from business perspective. And I think that this is one of the main points in the future of health when you are more engaging with your patients. This is one big point where I see great potential in our current medical space. And that’s also why I’m working on a solid, holistic approach with my further projects.
02:07 Anton, Q2: Alex, it would be great to hear from you about how you started your medical journey?
02:20 Alexander: My medical journey was really started because of my mother. And she is in the same space as me right now. Every time I was confused at, how she knows where somebody has a problem. Because, once she looks at you and you say where you have pain, she presses the right point. I was so impressed because I asked: “How do you feel this? How can it be possible?” And it was critical for me to also get these “eyes on a hand.” This is something that should be trained right.
02:57 I think this is just a small part of the whole practice of medicine — to have the “eyes on your hands.” It’s more like you have to make your visual anamnesis very well. This is also where I started to change a little bit in the mindset of my medical journey. I was focusing on improving the function, not only the structure. This is a big point, where I say: “Okay, I can do the MRI it’s okay.” You can have an MRI and see your shoulder. But, for example, you see that the shoulder is inflamed or is about to become inflamed. But you don’t see the problem. Where does it hurt? Why does it hurt? This is like when you take a photo of a phone, but you don’t see if the phone is ringing. MRI is just a structured photo. This is where I say that the holistic approach should improve the functionality of the whole body. Because if you have a problem in the shoulder, then it means it can be connected with a problem in the pelvis, in your craniomandibular joint, or your foot; there could be so many connections.
04:26 This is where I started to develop my own method. I saw that it was not helpful for people to treat just their symptoms. This is the wrong approach to get the customer free from the pain. If he has pain, then there is a cause as to why he has pain. And if you don’t think about the cause, you just think of the pain. Then it’s a very incorrect approach.
05:03 That is why I don’t call myself a “pain specialist.” I am not a “pain specialist”. I’m teaching customers to manage their pain. They have to first manage their mindset about their pain. This is something where I say — if somebody understands this approach, then he will understand why the functional approach (my method) is the right method to solve this pain problem long term.
05:34 This is where I started my medical journey and my medical point of view. I got deeper and deeper into it. Right now, I’m using my medical expertise and evidence-based technology. This combination makes my approach new. I’m connecting the existing techniques and making my own solution out of them. Once I see the first great results, I want to make this method even more time-efficient. Right now, my method makes is possible to improve your body functionality in just three minutes a day.
06:30 Anton, Q3: Great, that sounds fantastic! Could you tell me a couple of words about how your business in Germany is going now? What was the reason to jump into this water?
06:41 Alexander: So, as I said before, we have around 20,000 appointments a year. This is quite a lot. It’s only possible because we get results. Without results, you don’t get customers and without customers, you can’t build businesses.
07:01 The key point is to have results in treating our customers. We want to heal people starting from their mindset. This way people know and feel that we are doing something different. We are treating patients functionally, and removing their pain symptoms — we make it a combination.
07:35 The most common mistake in this area is that you go to a specialist, such as a functionality specialist [responsible for your body’s mobility]. But, the idea is that the guy who has the pain right now, simply wants to remove the pain. So, you have to have the proper combination of approaches. This is where we see the USP in our technique; we combine it all. So, we are solving the pain and the functional problem simultaneously.
08:15 Anton Q4: Interesting fact, how did you come to the idea of the digitalization of your business? What sign have you seen that AI should be in your product? How do you measure that your competitors don’t have such an advantage?
08:32 Alexander: First of all, it was my wife’s idea because she was watching me do online consultations. I do online consultations in a different way than how our interview is going right now. I would ask my patient to send me pictures for visual analysis. Then I give my diagnosis from my perspective and the possible treatment that could help. As well, I analyze the MRI pictures to see the structure behind them. Nevertheless, all in all, it’s the holistic connection of the body. Therefore our method is perfectly tailored for this AI approach.
09:32 We get a functional, correct diagnosis with static pictures; meaning, something really new. This is why my wife said: “You have your idea, you project your idea on the bodies, you get your diagnosis on rules”.
09:56 I have the rules and they are written down. I do not develop these rules every time individually because there are some clusters [groups]. If the client fits in some cluster, then he gets a special recommendation. It helps because we have evidence on it. So, this is why my wife said: “Let’s try it Artificial intelligence.”
10:21 We can complete the whole process and solve it with an AI that I made earlier. This way, the service quality is stable in my clinic. Note that we don’t use the AI instead of the visual analysis of the physiotherapist. We use it as a “helper” for them. If people go to our clinic, they get our AI solution and the treatment and visual analysis from our specialists. And I want to mention that our specialists like to hear what the AI says since they feel safer and are treating patients well, even better with the AI capabilities. But, AI can also work by itself.
11:12 Anton Q5: I appreciate that a lot. Well, that is nice. This example shows that such a business model can be more sustainable. What are the main benefits of our app?
11:33 Alexander: My app gives the user a really accurate visual anamnesis from a specialist because it’s based on medical expertise. Also, the algorithm evaluates scan history beforehand. So, you get not only your scan result from your actual situation; you get your scan result from your whole medical history. So, it becomes the “mind of your posture.”
12:02 This is a really good thing as your personal trainer. Also, from the physical perspective, it can be really helpful for the user to remove his asymmetry and to get a more symmetric body with less pain, less muscle stiffness, and a better hormonal situation. The evidence shows that if your posture is better, then you also have a better emotional status.
12:42 Maybe you’ve noticed if you’re sitting the whole day incorrectly, you’re feeling down. And when you stand upright, your whole situation is changing, and your face is changing. This is something I really love about my job — to see people changing their mindset and see people changing their lives.
13:50 Anton Q6: Great, as we can see AI could be easily implemented and become a unique selling point for app products. I would like to ask the last, but not least question. What are your plans for this year with your amazing app?
14:09 Alexander: The plan for this year is to get my proposal of a white-label solution for some businesses. We see the need in the market, in the B2B segment, that companies and people are looking for a solution like mine to make their services better and more sustainable.
14:33 This is something we really have a problem with; even all fitness apps have this problem. The problem is that once you go to a fitness app or you go to a fitness club, you need to answer a questionnaire every time! The questionary is based on some measurements, maybe of your body fat and body muscles. As a result, you get a program that is often symmetric. Yes, it’s 99% you get a similar training program and just 1% of the asymmetric program; usually when you have a personal trainer who knows what is going on.
15:10 This is great to see that we can implement our method in these businesses. So, we can solve this problem. We can even make a massage more efficient for the people who use the app. For example, you go to the masseur, take a scan before, and based on the analysis, the message will be adapted to your problems.
15:34 And this is something that is missing in our modern world right now. We have many fit-for-all solutions that are personalized just a little. For example, you don’t make like ten reps; and you just make seven reps or five. This is not personalization; this is more like a dose you give to your client and not personalization in line with your asymmetry of the body. So my main thing this year will be to convince the world that a more symmetric body is a better body.
Anton: Thanks Alex, for the great interview and fantastic project that you have. I’d like to be your loyal client and be more sporty like 10 years ago. Good luck in future endeavours. Talk soon!
The example of the business model of iPlena shows how AI can be applied in the medical field for physiotherapy.
As a result, the following benefits are gained:
- Combining medical expertise and evidence-based technology allows creating a more sustainable diagnosis and treatment model.
- The model allows handling more medical requests from the clients and appointments in clinics.
- AI-based software supports physiotherapists to make more accurate diagnoses.
- At the same time, the quality of medical service is stable.
- The model gives dozens of benefits to the end patients- they spend less time, have less stress, and pay less for the medical services.
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