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A Big New Study Will Test if the Apple Watch Can Help Hip and Knee Surgery Patients Recover Faster

October 15, 2018, 11:05 PM UTC

The Apple Watch—the titan of the smartwatch industry with more than 18 million devices sold in 2017 alone—is about to connect thousands of hip and knee surgery patients directly with their surgeons.

Apple and medical device giant Zimmer Biomet announced Monday that they’re partnering on a clinical study that connects people awaiting hip and knee procedures with doctors via a digital health app for the Apple Watch and iPhone. The app, mymobility, is meant to feed patients’ health data (such as their heart rates, number of steps taken, time spent standing, and other relevant information) to their surgical care teams over the course of their treatment and recoveries.

Part of the rationale here is to help physicians keep tabs on patients who need two of the most common surgeries in America; on top of that, it gives patients a digitally-fueled avenue for connecting with their doctors.

“We are proud to 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 solution will connect consumers with their doctors continuously, before and after surgery,” said Apple chief operating officer Jeff Williams in a statement.

The trial will recruit 10,000 patients across four major medical academic centers (Emory and University of Pennsylvania) and dozens of hospital and surgical facilities. There are more than a million hip and knee replacements performed in the U.S. each year, so if the trial proves successful in speeding up recovery time, the market potential could be formidable.

Apple’s forays into the medical space have gotten increasingly aggressive, especially when it comes to leveraging its massive customer base for the use of their health data. The company’s built-in heart monitor for its latest Watch could shake up the digital health field—or, critics say, may wind up promoting unnecessary medical scares and interventions.

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