BetterPT wants to be the OpenTable of physical therapy
A new Manhattan company aims to make booking an appointment with a physical therapist as easy as reserving a table at that trendy Italian restaurant with your smartphone.
Cofounders Greg Peters, 36, and Dr. Stephen Fealy, 48, started BetterPT late last year and have already secured $2.6 million in funding from investors for its mobile app. The company has landed a partnership with Professional Physical Therapy, the Uniondale, Long Island, provider of rehabilitation services and physical and hand therapy. Professional PT, which operates 109 practices in the tristate area, including 25 in Manhattan, logged 1 million visits last year.
BetterPT may be aiming to become the OpenTable of the physical therapy world, but it faces competition from Zocdoc, which allows users to search for physical therapists in addition to doctors and dentists. The American Physical Therapy Association offers an online directory of therapists but no mobile application.
Fealy said BetterPT will take a different tack than Zocdoc.
"We want to be laser-focused on orthopedics and provide substantively more on the logistics side for physical therapists, not just helping find someone who needs an appointment," he said.
Peters is a former managing director and trainer at high-end Manhattan gym La Palestra. One of his clients happened to be Fealy, an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery. Fealy agreed to team up with Peters on a physical therapy venture following Peters' creation of an Uber-like app for personal training called TRN.
Fealy, a fellowship-trained physician in sports medicine, is a consulting physician for the Major League Baseball Players Association. He also created several in-office orthopedics practices for HSS that serve employees at Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase.
Last fall BetterPT started as a concierge service for ordering a therapist to your home, hotel or office. Because of laws against fee-splitting, BetterPT charges a subscription fee to therapists, currently $99 a month.
In June the company will roll out its second phase: an appointment-booking platform for physical therapists. When the product expands to clinics, such as Professional PT, it will integrate with their electronic medical records systems. Subscriptions for that service will start at $300 a month, though pricing will depend on the number of clinics participating. Patients who download the free app will be able to find a therapist, book appointments and check whether their insurance will cover the visit.
Loeb Holding Corp., a private investment firm, led a $1.5 million investment round that closed in January. Bruce Lev, managing director at Loeb Partners, said he chose to invest in BetterPT for two reasons: He was drawn to Fealy's expertise and BetterPT's position as a "first mover" in offering software to help physical therapists book appointments.
"This is combining the right people with the right market opportunity," he said.
One challenge for BetterPT as it scales up will be attracting high-quality therapists in cities outside New York, where Fealy doesn't have personal relationships and may have trouble vetting therapists, said physical therapist Liz Bonamo, who joined BetterPT last year after she was approached by Fealy, a former HSS colleague.
Bonamo said she appreciates the fact that her clients pay for visits through the app by credit card and she gets paid within 24 hours.
Previously, she sent invoices to patients at the end of the month and got paid in cash or by check.
"One of the great advantages is that it's seamless in terms of payment," she said. "People are using their phones for everything. As tech progresses, that's where medicine is moving."
"BetterPT wants to be the OpenTable of physical therapy" originally appeared in Crain's New York Business.
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