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FOTO Rehab Outcomes Blog

Can a Smart Watch Help with Faster Recovery after a Joint Replacement

Earlier this year I came upon a news story about Apple and how Apple is definitely taking steps to move into the health and medical world.

smartphone-app-health-post-op-recoveryI am sure that many of us provide care to people who have had a joint replacement. I wish that our brains could accurately recall each of our patients.

I believe that the apps have a bit more importance than just pre and post-operative education and tracking. Research is pointing to the importance of being active far sooner than when osteoarthritis is seen. And then, even when someone has osteoarthritis, it is still important to be active. It seems research is indicating that the lack of physical activity may be playing a large role in occurrence rates. It seems to me there could be a way to somehow harness that research to pull into an app to help track, motivate and increase efforts to change behaviors before the situation reaches a need for a joint replacement.

As I read the news about the current study between Apple and Zimmer Biomet, I found it interesting that surgeons may play the main role with regard to who the patient will be able to communicate. As a physical therapist, as I think about the patients who don't quite do as well, most may not have been zealous with stretching their joint and getting themselves back to life. I am not able to see the full app design via the link, so I hope there has been thought on how to capture that the patient is actually spending time focused on gaining full range of motion. The patients who don't begin to walk distances or go up and down stairs in a normal manner are also at risk of not regaining full use of their new knee or hip. And for some individuals, targeted education, demonstration, exercises need to be provided to help the person get rid of their limp. I'm not quite sure how an app might be able to provide the individualized feedback to help the person perform quality movement patterns. Technically it isn't unless it merges with a video platform that can see a patient move and qualify the movement pattern.

It seems that combining this wearable technology with the app being designed by Apple and Zimmer Biomet might have a bit more value. The ability to combine the majority of the patient needs into one package seems more helpful and ties everything together for the patient. Again, the biggest question: which patients need the technology to help them be successful.

I'm not sure the surgeon will really be the professional who truly cares or even wants to spend time thinking about the patient's day to day activity level. It seems that a physical therapist would have more stake in not only analyzing the date, but also advising on activities. I am finding it more and more interesting to learn a patient's perspective of doing a lot of walking. Some patients think "a lot" of walking is 1,000 steps.  When I look at research to help me define activity levels based on steps: <5,000 steps is sedentary. So, yes, I can see a disconnect between "a lot of steps" and what is really necessary to have a person be considered physically active. I also think that as wearables become more commonly used with the majority of our patients, we have the opportunity to help educate on acceptable, healthy targets so the patient really is exceeding sedentary status.

Until next time,