Surgeons excited by the power of big tech in orthopedics

Alan Condon -  

Big tech's push into healthcare promises big things for the orthopedic industry as wearable technologies offer providers data and insights in a way they have never had at their disposal.

Remote patient monitoring has exploded in recent years — particularly during the pandemic for patients with acute and chronic conditions — and wearable technologies have the potential to feed providers information more quickly and more efficiently than before.

In orthopedics, many patients are going home with wearable devices to monitor recovery and range of motion following total knee replacement surgery.

MotionSense, a connected wearable and app created by OrthoSensor, is designed to engage and motivate patients in their recovery from joint replacement while informing their care team of their progress. The technology uses data to create personalized exercise programs and allows patients to share photos of wound progress or other concerns with their care team.

"The goal is for early intervention/modification when patients are struggling and even early discontinuation of physical therapy for those who excel. "Data is power when actionable," said Cory Calendine, MD, a surgeon at Franklin-based Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee, which is implementing MotionSense this year.

OrthoSensor's technology clearly made an impression among orthopedic surgeons; Stryker acquired the startup in January 2021 and plans to develop its own portfolio of wearables and smart implants.

"Patient recovery will become more active as real-time measurement on key performance insights drive improved outcomes and patient satisfaction," Spencer Stiles, Stryker's group president of orthopedics and spine, said in a news release when the transaction was completed.

The deal came one month after Exactech acquired Muvr Labs, a diagnostic and digital data company that also develops wearable motion sensors for joint replacement.

The company initiated a pilot launch of the technology in 2021 after observing "an increase in exercise time, patient satisfaction and a reduction in office calls," according to California-based orthopedic surgeon Alexander Sah, MD. "It's also very simple to use because it doesn't require in-office calibration, which allows patients to use the sensors at home, unsupervised."

Martin Roche, MD, founder of OrthoSensor and director of hip and knee arthroplasty at HSS Florida in West Palm Beach, told Becker's that remote patient monitoring with wearable sensors and other communication links are the future of orthopedics. He believes the impetus behind Stryker's acquisition of OrthoSensor is to utilize sensors to better understand patients' joint replacement journeys using objective data.

"Patients are going home the same day, [but] it's still our role to ensure their recovery goes as seamlessly and as safe as possible," Dr. Roche said. "I think you're going to see the use of wearables and different telehealth integration to keep an eye on patients to make sure they're not having any complications along the way."

The next step in this evolution is what Dr. Roche has described as digital orthopedic healthcare, which will center on improved real-time connectivity with patients.  

"The next extension of intraoperative sensors and wearables will be implanting sensors within the implant or joint when you do the surgery," he said. "I believe the next evolution of care over the next three to five years is delivering intelligence through data. In five years, I think every instrument we use to perform surgery and every implant we use will be smart — they will be data-producing devices."

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