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Doctors, Insurance Companies Turning To Smart Trackers For Physical Therapy Outcomes

CARMICHAEL (CBS13) -- A new app is changing physical therapy and reducing fraud all at once.

"You put this on and when it's flashing green it's ready to go," said Bill Zachry.

Zachry is wearing the Recupe app by Plethy.

"I push the button and move my arm up and down," he said.

He is following a set of physical therapy instructions on his smartphone.

"The device will keep track of the range of motion and how much work I put into it," Zachry said.

It's a sensor the size of a quarter that tracks data and relays it directly through your phone to your doctor.

"This is the most sophisticated user interface that we've seen so far, for sure," said Dr. Hunter Greene, an orthopedist specializing in sports medicine.

Dr. Greene's patients use it to track progress remotely while recovering from surgery or an injury.

"If they go once every week, or two weeks with a structured physical therapist, this can fill in that void for them," Greene said.

All information is uploaded into the patient's medical records. The app even assesses personality so it can customize care.

"My encouragements might not be the same as yours would be," said Zachry, who used it to try and prevent shoulder surgery.

Zachry was doing the exercises at home and in his office.

"I pull on the right and [it] stretches the hand up," he said as he worked with a band hung over the door.

He is trying to build up his muscles before and after the eventual surgery he needed to remove a bone spur.

"Which I think significantly helped me in my outcome," he said.

Zachry is all about outcome. He was a risk manager at Safeway. Over time he saw a reoccurring issue with employees when it came to workers comp claims.

"I would spend hundreds of millions of dollars on frozen shoulders where the person didn't recover from surgery because they weren't doing the work at home and this allows us to monitor," Zachry said.

Zachry was the Chair of the California Fraud Assessment Commission for a decade and says, while the app wasn't designed to fight fraud, that's what's happening.

Dr. Greene agrees.

"If you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing, it doesn't record it, so you can't put it on your dog and have it run around the house and say, 'I did my exercises," Greene said. "It will really know if you're doing it or not."

The app is ultimately saving companies money by keeping insurance premiums lower.

"This really helps in terms of making sure you're getting the right care at the right time to get them back to work," said Zachry.

The medical community is looking at how this can be used to calculate long-term disability payouts as well. Medical experts say failure to return to work reduces life expectancy.

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