Each year, U.S. hospitals perform as many as 1 million joint replacement operations—17 hospitals and a big device maker are studying to see in apps and Apple watch can improve care and outcomes.

An aging of the U.S. population is resulting in boom times for the knee and hip replacement market.

Each year, U.S. hospitals perform as many as 1 million joint replacement operations—a figure that could rise to as many as 3.5 million annually as more consumers age and their damaged natural joints need to be replaced, says the U.S. government.

But the cost of a joint replacement can vary widely, depending upon geography and the individual patient’s health benefits, and all in for a knee replacement is $49,500, according to Healthline.com. The type of before and after care patients receive also can vary widely—a prime reason a major U.S. academic medical center is helping to develop an Apple Watch app and participate in a follow-up clinical study to better determine if wearables and apps can help to standardize and improve the quality of care for joint replacement.

We will enable knee and hip replacement patients to use their own data and share it with their doctors.

Rush University Medical Center has helped to build an app that uses Apple Watch technology to connect patients and their surgical provider to better coordinate and improve care for patients who undergo knee replacement and hip replacement. The building of the app is part of a broader mobile health and wearables study that launched on Oct. 15 from medical device maker Zimmer Biomet.

The study may enroll as many as 10,000 patient participants in the United States, and Rush is one of 17 health systems currently participating in the research. The use of the app with Apple Watch will provide patients with virtual support and guidance as they prepare for and recover from these surgeries. The app has several features that use both Apple Watch and iPhone, including the ability for surgeons to send education and therapy reminders directly to the patient’s Apple Watch, Rush says. The app also allows surgeons to monitor patient activity levels throughout the days and weeks while they are preparing for and recovering from surgery.

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Other health systems include University of Utah Health, University of Pennsylvania Health System, Emory University Orthopedics & Spine Hospital/Emory Healthcare, Hoag Orthopedic Institute, Newton-Wellesley Hospital and Centura Health, Porter Hospital—Colorado Joint Replacement. “We are improving care decisions through digital health and we are launching one of the largest evidence-gathering clinical studies in orthopedic history,” says Zimmer Biomet CEO Bryan Hanson.

Researchers will combine patient-reported feedback with continuous health and activity data from Apple Watch to provide new insights into the power of the Zimmer Biomet mymobility app to impact the standard of care for these common surgeries.

“One of the best ways to empower consumers is by giving them the ability to use their health and activity information to improve their own care,” says Apple Inc. chief operating officer Jeff Williams. “We will enable knee and hip replacement patients to use their own data and share it with their doctors seamlessly, so that they can participate in their care and recovery in a way not previously possible through traditional in-person visits—this will connect consumers with their doctors continuously, before and after surgery.”

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