Solving Chronic Pain Through Digital Care
Episode 545

Jakob Dahlberg, CEO & Co-Founder Joint Academy

Solving Chronic Pain Through Digital Care

This episode features Jakob Dahlberg, co-founder and CEO of Joint Academy, a digital medicine platform for patients with chronic joint pain. He was Forbes 30 under 30 in health care in 2020. Today’s podcast discusses scaling and digitizing physical therapy protocols, reimbursement under different macro tailwinds, business plans for different countries, and more. Please tune in for our exciting conversation with Jakob Dahlberg.

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Solving Chronic Pain Through Digital Care

Episode 545

About Jakob Dahlberg

Jakob Dahlberg is a co-founder and CEO of Joint Academy, a digital health company pioneering online treatment for chronic joint pain by connecting patients with licensed therapists. Its app connects patients with physical therapists for treatment and includes progress tracking, personalized physical activities, and education about joint pain. The company has raised $13 million in venture capital.

 

Solving Chronic Pain Through Digital Care with Jakob Dahlberg, CEO & Co-Founder Joint Academy transcript powered by Sonix—easily convert your audio to text with Sonix.

Solving Chronic Pain Through Digital Care with Jakob Dahlberg, CEO & Co-Founder Joint Academy was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best audio automated transcription service in 2020. Our automated transcription algorithms works with many of the popular audio file formats.

Intro:
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Saul Marquez:
Welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket. Saul Marquez is here. And today I have the privilege of hosting Jakob Dahlberg. He is the CEO and co-founder of Joint Academy, a digital health company pioneering online treatment for chronic joint pain by connecting patients with licensed therapists. The treatment is based on strong underlying clinical evidence paired with data science and superior product experiences. He was Forbes 30 under 30 and health care in 2020. And today we’re going to be talking about how they’re making a difference in the hip and knee space around the digital health. And, you know, when you can’t make it to the clinic and when you can’t have elective surgery, what do you do? That’s where these guys come in. And so such a privilege to have you here. Jakob, thanks so much for joining me.

Jakob Dahlberg:
Yeah.Thank you very much for having me. Excited to be here.

Saul Marquez:
Yes, sir. So, Jacob, before we dive in to your company Joint Academy. I want to learn a little bit more about what inspires your work in health care.

Jakob Dahlberg:
Yeah, I think there’s very few industries you could be in where you basically touch every life. I mean, some are more affected directly and some are affected indirectly by health, healthcare. But it really touches everybody. And just to be a part of that, it’s very inspirational on a daily basis. You know, getting patient quotes, how much better they’ve become. Yeah. You know, it just means a lot.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. There’s no more direct place you could work to help people. And so you guys have a nice presence in Europe. You’re based in Stockholm and also here in the US. So looking forward to dig in and a little bit exploring your company and how you’re adding value to the ecosystem. Do you want to share a little bit about that to get us started?

Jakob Dahlberg:
Yeah, for sure. So currently we’re operating in the Swedish and the US market and our headquarter is actually in Malta. But we also have Stocklholms presence in southern parts of Sweden. Then we’ve expanded a little bit into Europe as well here in Pareles. We’re actually also have some presence and U.K. But now recently we’ve done a big leap forward and we’ve approached the U.S. markets. We have a presence both on the East Coast and the West Coast in terms of offices and operational resources and in the Swedish market. It’s definitely a market where we’re most established right now. We have a very deep relationship with the public health system here in Sweden. And the big, big advantage with Sweden is its single-payer systems, a very differentiated from the US market where is a little bit more fragmented. But we’ve somewhat treated 20000 patients here in Sweden. So, so very established, around 150 physical therapists subcontracted working into service. And we’re starting to now see some early traction in the U.S. as well.

Saul Marquez:
That’s awesome. So talk to us about what makes what you do different and better than what’s available.

Jakob Dahlberg:
Yeah.So our founder’s story is a little bit unique and differentiated. So so I studied computer science back in 2015 and I was actually looking at my father’s research scientists and science in the field of Moscow’s legal and chronic joint conditions. And he what he did was he was one of the founders of a very successful face to face intervention. So basically, you came in and you saw your physical therapist four for three months and you got very specific, never muscular exercises patient education, peer to peer support, et cetera. And this had very, very strong underlying clinical evidence. And me studying computer science and looking at this very successful in person mythology, I asked my father if we could actually digitize it to make the protocol even more scalable and cost-efficient. So that’s really what makes a difference, that we actually took something that was clinically validated in person and then we digitized it. And already two hundred thousand patients went through that face to face programs. We had a lot of data and know-how to do actually deliver additional intervention. So, you know, just starting off by all that data and that expertise made a big difference.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, that’s a great foundation building off of an analog in person way of doing things, scaling it digitally. What would you say has been the best outcome or our business model shift that you guys have catalyzed?

Jakob Dahlberg:
Yeah. So I think all I mean, you have it’s almost you categorize it as pre-covid 19 and post covidd 19. But I think just in general, looking at the telemedicine space, there’s been a lot of macro tailwinds when it comes to reimbursement. I think that’s one of the big catalysts when it comes to business models and telemedicine. You know, it’s always centered around the question of how you could get reimbursed and how you can go to market. Our partnership with the public health system in Sweden, where we managed to get reimbursed by every Swedish citizen, was definitely a big breakthrough from us. It really opened up the market here in Sweden. We’re seeing some similar things in Europe, like in the U.K., the NHS. We’re seeing France opening up their social health system. Same thing with Germany as well. Some couple of different exciting initiatives going on over there. And then also in the U.S., we definitely have some large digital providers who paved the way from a reimbursement perspective, seeing a large health plans, reimbursing telemedicine, but also CMS opening up. So I would definitely say reimbursement under different macro tailwinds when it comes to regulatory permissions and things like that.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. Jacob, so you mentioned something about, you know, payment innovation there that you guys kicked off. You want to go through that a little bit and maybe I understand. So you that the public system to work with the citizens to kind of meet in the middle to pay for this.

Jakob Dahlberg:
Yeah, exactly.

Saul Marquez:
Tell me more about that.

Jakob Dahlberg:
Yes. So I think to use the analogy to understand how it works is. Yes. What’s the single payer in the US? And then the CMS acknowledged additional intervention for chronic knee and hip pain. And then basically what they said is that if you’re a U.S. citizen, you could go this intervention without any cost and it will be subsidized. And then, you know, the digital provider would be able to file medical claims to see mass from delivering the service.

Saul Marquez:
Got it. So basically just opened up the opportunity for people to use it.

Jakob Dahlberg:
Correct. You could just you know, we do a lot of acquisition online as you could just download our app from App Store or Google Play and. Yeah. And then you don’t have to there’s no out of pocket costs. And it’s fully subsidized by the public health system.

Saul Marquez:
Very cool, very cool. And there you you kind of just opened up a, I guess, exclusive channel for reimbursement for you guys.

Jakob Dahlberg:
Yeah, great. And I think that, as you mentioned, is one of the biggest catalysts that you really need to get if you want to be successful within telemedicine.

Saul Marquez:
Congratulations. That’s never easy to do, especially with government agencies anywhere. Right?

Jakob Dahlberg:
It took a lot of time. And as I mentioned, our program is substantiated by very, very strong underlying clinical evidence. And we’ve done a lot ROIs around cost savings, health, economic analysis and things like that. So, yeah, I know it’s a few years of hard work. And then finally managed to pull it through.

Saul Marquez:
Awesome. And so you mentioned early on, you know, you guys are focused on the payer as a customer. Have you guys given thought to large employers? I mean, there in Sweden, you got IKEA. You’ve got tons of really large employers across the world. How about addressing it through those employers? Any thoughts around that?

Jakob Dahlberg:
Yeah, for sure. And I mean, especially in the U.S., it’s very relevant for us because I think employers constitutes around 40 percent of all the costs for health care. So so definitely that’s an interesting market for us. And musculoskeletal problems is definitely on there, you know, as an item on their priority list in terms of agendas. So so, yeah, we’ve definitely been in talks and we’ve been working with a few few employers. And yeah, it’s in short, we’re gonna go out and announce some of our new clients, both in the US, but also on the European side of things.

Saul Marquez:
Awesome, brother. You guys are ahead of the game as you’ve built the business. Yeah. And so how long has it been now, Jakob, with Joint Academy?

Jakob Dahlberg:
2015. So it’s so it’s been five years now.

Saul Marquez:
Five years. A lot happens in five years. You know, having the right product market fit, having the right distribution, figuring out your operations as you guys have built the business, what would you say has been one of the biggest setbacks you experienced? And what was a key learning that made you guys better from that?

Jakob Dahlberg:
Yeah. So I think, like, health care is a highly regulated environment. It’s very, very hard to navigate in. And we, you know, work across the spectrum of three different user groups. We have payors, providers and patients, providers for us as physical therapists. And just to build a model where you could just pull through all of those three different user groups and align their incentives is quite hard. You know, you don’t get reimbursement getting the physical therapists onboard and then acquiring patients. So I think, you know, the overall learning is you really need to get all three pieces in place to really manage to build this type of business. And that is definitely something very hard, but also very, very rewarding.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, yeah. And so when did that click? When did everything just finally. Wow. We figured this out. How how long ago is that?

Jakob Dahlberg:
Yeah. I think it’s been fairly recently that we start to see some real exponential growth. And, you know, when, you know, categorized it as some type of escape velocity in the market. I mean, the big catalyst is definitely reimbursement. But we see it as a four step process, which is basically we always start with science, start with science. Then we could get reimbursement and you get reimbursed and you have the unit economics to hire the subcontractor physical therapists. And then as the last step you get, then start actually inviting patients for different channels. And this has been a long learning curve. But I’ll I’ll say, you know, last last couple of months, last year is when things really started to take off for us.

Saul Marquez:
That’s fantastic, Jakob, you know, as we turned the corner in the pre and post covid, a lot has changed and I think will remain transformed forever. Tell us what you’re most excited about.

Jakob Dahlberg:
Yeah. So I’m really, really excited about seeing also on a patient level, the secular behavioral change for where they’re much more keen to actually adapt these digital tools. So I think there’s been a little skepticism around 65 year old, 65 year old plus retirees that they would actually adopt these digital tools. But we’re seeing high adoption rate right now both in Sweden and the US. And that high adoption rate paired with good adherence or retention also leads to superior clinical outcomes that, you know, that makes it really, really exciting just to look at the data and see how good this works. It really speaks about the vision and mission of how you really move the needle in health care by getting this high penetration rate.

Saul Marquez:
Very cool. Now, that’s definitely exciting. It’s not always what you think until you get out there and check out the market, folks. You’re not going to really know. You’re just going to assume. And so fantastic work by you and the team, Jacob. I’d love to just thank you for jumping on and showing us and telling us a little bit more about what you guys do. Why don’t you go ahead and leave us with the closing thought. And then the best place for the listeners could get to know you better or learn more about how to engage.

Jakob Dahlberg:
Yeah. So I think I mean, when I look at health care, my mental model is basically you have 15 chronic disease to stop constitutes for 80 percent of the global cost. And now seeing these high adoption rates, seeing the reimbursement models, I think that means that we’re still in the very, very early innings of, you know, revolutionary part of changing health care. And being part of that by focusing on one of these 15 chronic diseases is very, very exciting. But we’re also seeing a lot of other digital providers and mental illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome and things like that. So I’m very, very hopeful. I think we will finally start to see how we could actually not just bend the cost curve, but actually break it by having these different point solutions and really starting to aggregate the market. Definitely very, very optimistic looking into the future of health care. I’m very happy to be a part of it. You can follow me on Twitter at Jacob Dahlberg and my e-mail is jakob@jointacademy.com

Saul Marquez:
Outstanding Jacob. Hey, I want to thank you for jumping on with us all the way from Sweden and wishing you and your team the best success in the market, my friend. Thanks so much for joining me.

Jakob Dahlberg:
Awesome. Yeah, thanks for having me.

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You’ll Learn:

  • Open up the opportunity for people to use your products.
  • Substantiate data with clinical evidence
  • Get all the needed stakeholders in place to manage a business

 

Reference
https://www.jointacademy.com/us/en/