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  • Writer's pictureDr. Troy Miles

How Wearable Devices Are Transforming Orthopaedic Care

Fitness and activity trackers are taking off, with an estimated 72 million devices sold just last year. These “smart” wearables are able to track steps, heart rates, burned calories, sleep patterns, and even blood glucose levels. Now, researchers are finding that the latest generation of wearable devices could benefit patients undergoing orthopaedic surgeries, including hip replacement and knee replacement, as well.

This new study, authored by Dr. Claudette Lajam at NYU Langone Medical Center and presented at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) meeting earlier this month, looked at more than two dozen of the most popular consumer fitness devices, including wearables from successful companies like Fitbit and Jawbone. Researchers looked closely at whether these fitness trackers could offer useful information before and after orthopaedic surgery. What they found might surprise you.

It turns out that activity trackers are useful for much more than just fitness purposes. In their research, Dr. Lajam and her team found that many of the consumer wearables already on the market have the ability to track compliance with physiotherapy and compliance with activity restrictions. Surgeons can also use the information collected through these devices for the preoperative detection of sleep apnea, weight gain, or low activity levels. After surgery, surgeons can use the data to track patient outcomes. For example, an orthopaedic surgeon could use the data being collected by a patient’s activity tracker to determine how frequently he or she was walking or taking the stairs after undergoing hip replacement.

Although only a small portion of the fitness and activity trackers currently on the market link directly to electronic medical records (EMRs), more than two-thirds already have data sharing capabilities built-in. This is positive news for physicians like myself who are interested in using technology to improve patient care.

As we continue to explore and implement wearable technology across the field of orthopaedic surgery, I look forward to working with patients and looking closely at how the fitness trackers many of us already own could be used to improve outcomes and further assist with preoperative and postoperative care.

Click here to read the presentation abstract.

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