Apple Watch may help to improve preventative care

Posted on: September 15th, 2015 by Ortho Illinois

Apple’s event in early September saw excited attendees drooling over the new and powerful iPad Pro as well as new watchbands, the Apple Pencil, and Office for iPad, but we were much more interested in Co-founder of Airstrip Dr. Cameron Powell’s time on stage.

Airstrip is a medical technology company that offers apps to monitor the vitals of patients through iPad/iPhone/Apple Watch Apps. That data can be relayed to the patient’s doctor for real-time data analysis.

Dr. Powell demonstrated how a mother could have real time monitoring of her heartbeat as well as her fetus’ heartbeat.

That’s amazing.

Apple wants to be a big player in healthcare, and they’re doing that by providing ways for researchers to gather data from millions of Apple product users (ResearchKit) and by collecting a user’s activity and health data into HealthKit.

Dr. Van Thiel, a member of the sports medicine team at Rockford Orthopedic, pointed to the ability of wearable tech to quantify outcomes for patients who are considering surgery or have had surgery already.

“We are focused on outcomes in orthopedics. It’s very important for us to monitor a patient’s return of function and to determine if patients are doing the things they should be doing and–at times–not doing things they shouldn’t be doing. One of the outcomes instruments we can use to collect data is a Fitbit or Apple Watch because we can actually see how far that person is walking or running, or if they’re not moving at all.”

The ability to monitor a patient during physical therapy and track how active they are could provide beneficial data on the success of treatment as well.

Many physicians believe the the next major advancement/change in healthcare will result from wearable tech because wearable tech can aid physicians with preventative medicine.

Dr. Van Thiel said, “If we’re able to real-time monitor someone, we don’t have to wait until the next follow-up appointment. We can head off problems before they become larger issues. If that goes across all of medicine–focusing on prevention and population health–our health as a country can improve dramatically.”

Dr. Van Thiel pointed to the benefit of monitoring patients immediately after ACL reconstructions in order to prevent stiffness in the patient’s knee. “Staying ahead of the potential problems equates to better outcomes and a better life for my patients,” Van Thiel said.

In a recent Forbes article, Apple was criticized for considering its healthcare technology game changing because the cost associated with the Apple Watch is prohibitive for many at-risk patients.

Dr. Van Thiel, while acknowledging the truth of the statement also pointed out the importance of perspective.

“If you’re looking at it as one patient paying out of pocket, then yes, it could be too expensive, but if we look at this as population health, then, this is amazing. The ability to reduce costs is enormous. I think a $500 Apple Watch could prevent a $50,000 surgery or a $20,000 hospitalization if a patient’s primary care physician or specialist has access to the data and knows what to watch for.”

Dr. Van Thiel noted that he could even see insurance providers subsidizing the cost of fitness trackers because of the usefulness of real-time data in preventing disease.

Wearables have not revolutionized healthcare yet, and many people may not feel comfortable sharing all their activity data with medical providers, but the possibilities for preventing complications after surgery and quantifying outcomes scores even more accurately is certainly exciting.

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