How Apple Watch might improve outcomes for these 1 million patients

About 1 million hip and knee replacements are done each year in the U.S. And while the procedures themselves may be done with the orchestrated precision of an Indianapolis 500 pit crew, that level of coordination is sometimes lacking when it comes to the management of presurgery preparation and the post-op recovery.

A study that may involve up to 10,000 patients has been launched to see if a mobile health application and wearable technology can improve outcomes through better communication and patient self-management.

With the aim of improving the process, Zimmer Biomet—a Warsaw, Indiana-based orthopedic reconstructive product manufacturer—has developed the mymobility app to work with iPhone and Apple Watch to connect patients, surgeons and the care team for preparation and recovery management.

The AMA’s Digital Health Implementation Playbook packages the key steps, best practices and resources to accelerate the adoption of these and other digital health innovations and helps physicians extend care beyond the exam room. Download the Playbook now.

The mymobility app will provide pre-procedure educational materials, activities to facilitate recovery, transmission of mobility measures, and opportunities for rapid feedback.

“Historically, physicians wouldn’t know if the patients received their materials and acted on them,” said Ted Spooner, Zimmer Biomet’s vice president for connected health strategy. “Also, questions can be communicated in real time, so you have a better-prepared patient and a better-informed surgeon.”

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The patients’ acknowledgement of receiving and acting on information sent by the care team is recorded on a surgical dashboard on which patient adherence can be scored.

If a patient is experiencing pain, redness or swelling, they can transmit pictures or video with a voice description of how they feel to the care team, Spooner said. The information can be evaluated, and this is expected to lead to the need for fewer office or emergency department visits.

Double-checking cybersecurity

All patient data is encrypted in the app with no data being transmitted via texting. Spooner said a “belt-and-suspenders” approach is being taken for cybersecurity. This means meeting all requirements from both the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the HITRUST Alliance for access control, data storage and data transmission.

The first phase of the study was launched with 300 patients. Subsequent phases are expected to include up to 1,000 each and to eventually build up to 10,000 patients for the entire project.

Assisting in the endeavor are several prominent health care organizations. These include University of Utah Health, Rush University Medical Center and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

More info to empower patients

One goal is to collect more data that is predictive, Spooner said. Mobility measures on daily activities will be recorded, including ease or difficulty with standing up, sitting down, and taking steps. But Spooner said more quality-of-life measures will be taken.

“Not just ‘Can I run mile?’ but ‘Can I return to my normal life?’” he explained. “This includes participating in sports, dancing or whatever you might want to do as a functioning adult.”

The ultimate goal is to give patients and physicians the tools they need to improve care outcomes.

“There is a transition that’s going on that empowers patients with information about making decisions about their own health care and gives them access to information that they should have had for a long time,” Spooner said. “Technology is just a tool, but it can help people know more, prepare more and even behave differently—and that’s the end game.”