According to the JBJS 2014 Readership Study, residents are frequent users of mobile medical apps, with 76% saying they have a medical app on their smartphone. Over the next 2 years, residents anticipate that their app usage will become an even greater part of their daily use. According to the study, just over half of residents, 52%, say they expect to rely heavily on mobile apps for obtaining clinical orthopaedic information. Residents place mobile apps 4th out of 8 sources in future reliance, with online journals in first place. Orthopaedic surgeons, on the other hand, rate mobile apps lower in future importance, with roughly a third, 36%, saying they’ll rely on mobile apps the most. For surgeons, online and print journals are at the top of the list.
The accelerometer chip inside almost every smartphone, which helps the device know up from down, could help orthopaedic surgeons remotely analyze the gaits of their patients after joint-replacement surgery. So says Canadian orthopaedist Michael Dunbar, MD, an oft-published JBJS author.
Accelerometers can detect motion in three directions. Dr. Dunbar told Orthopedics This Week that he’s working on an app whereby patients, at the time of postsurgical check-ups, would strap the phone onto their back or hip and go for a walk in their own environs. The app would transmit the accelerometer-captured information to the doctor for gait analysis; the physician would then contact the patient by phone for further discussion about postsurgical progress.
Compared to the traditional follow-up X-ray–which, as Dr. Dunbar noted, “is just a [two-dimensional] picture of the patient lying down and has nothing to do with the patients’ walking”–the accelerometer-enabled remote gait analysis should be more accurate and less expensive and time-consuming.