- Maddy Savage
From getting out of bed with difficulty, to continuing to do exercises, Eva Lena Rasmussen’s condition has changed during the epidemic.
The 55-year-old Swede credits the switch to a Swedish app that offers tailored exercises to help those with joint pain.
Every day, the app sends Rasmussen a reminder to do a five-minute series of exercises, such as squats and leg raises.
Explanatory videos provided by the application ensure that its users understand how to perform the exercises correctly, as well as the appropriateness of the exercises with the amount of pain the user suffers according to the latter’s answers to questions in this regard.
The app also offers the ability to talk to a physiotherapist, who coordinates regular video calls.
“I can really feel better,” Rasmussen says. Rasmussen suffers from knee pain.
When she started the app therapy in March 2020, Rasmussen could barely complete a few squats, but today she boasts of doing 21 squats.
The app is called Joint Academy, and it was launched in 2014 with the goal of improving treatment of joint pain. The app was founded by Leif Dalberg, professor of arthritis at Sweden’s Lund University, in partnership with his son Jacob, who put off studying computer science to start launching the app.
The company says that it offers an alternative to waiting to see a physiotherapist, and prevents many patients from reaching an “advanced stage” and then undergoing “expensive” surgeries, by performing simple exercises.
During the epidemic, Jacob Dalberg (30 years old), says that the number of users of the application has achieved a jump from the number expected to be achieved even two or maybe three years ago.
Although the Swedish authorities have refrained from imposing official closures due to the epidemic, exercise classes have been canceled, and many patients and health care staff have refrained from direct face-to-face dealings.
About 50,000 people have used the Joint Academy application since April last year, according to the company, compared to 15,000 during the first six years of launching the application, which is now the most popular application used to treat joint pain in Sweden.
Joint Academy is licensed in Sweden as a provider of physical therapy. The company makes profits from regional health authorities, which in turn bill for placing patients on digital physical therapy programmes.
The Joint Academy generated more than $7.4 million in profits in 2020.
The success of the Joint Academy is evidence of the broader boom in digital healthcare services in Sweden.
Similar apps in Sweden include Blodtrycksdoktorn, which provides specialized treatment for patients with high blood pressure; the Migränhjälpen app that helps migraine sufferers; The Mindler application that provides access to psychologists.
In the fall of 2020, one in five Swedes used a digital healthcare app, according to the Swedish Internet Foundation, including one in ten prisoners.
On the other hand, Sweden’s Chief Medical Officer, Sofia Regren, says digital healthcare applications are “of great importance” in the development of the country’s healthcare system, but there are heated debates about how to regulate the industry.
There are fears of the “greed” of some private companies behind these applications.
“We need more research,” says Regren. “It is critical to determine what kind of care is needed and what kind of treatment is appropriate on digital apps, and in turn what kind of care and what kind of treatment requires a visit to a doctor in a healthcare center or hospital.”
Regren also expresses concern that many Swedes are not able to use health apps, despite Sweden’s low digital illiteracy.