Those who have been in this industry for more than a few years realize implant technology has not changed all that much. Sure, there are new product releases offering innovative benefits not previously available. Further, emerging manufacturing technologies and advancements achieve new capabilities in terms of the equipment and machines fabricating the implants using better, more efficient methods (Get more on this topic in this month’s cover article, Technology Revision, on page 34). Overall, however, the form, function, and appearance of many orthopedic implants has remained relatively unchanged for quite some time.
In stark contrast to this, the products and technologies surrounding the implants are rapidly transforming. In some cases, the digital revolution is taking hold, with smart technologies being incorporated into rehabilitation devices. Elsewhere, surgeons are benefitting from the incorporation of robotic-based guidance systems. Further still, imaging technologies are improving and emitting less radiation, virtual and augmented reality systems are being used for training as well as during surgical procedures, and biologics have become a significant part of the orthopedic sector. While advances in implants remain relatively static, the dynamic changes in their supporting technologies are quite exciting.
To see many of these revolutionary solutions on display, one needs travel only as far as the location of the next American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) annual meeting (which will next be in Orlando, Fla., in March 2020). I attended this year’s event in Las Vegas and was pleased to see just how quickly certain “supporting” areas of the orthopedic industry were developing and embracing many of the aforementioned advanced technologies.
Reflexion Health was one of my first visits during this year’s event. The firm offers a virtual solution called VERA for at-home and onsite physical therapy, combining 3D motion capture technology with a game-like interface. VERA tracks a patient’s physical therapy routine, capturing information about range of motion and overall progress. This data is also shared with the patient’s physician, enhancing communication (and honesty) between the two parties. The system has been the subject of studies by both Duke and Yale that presented favorable assessments. In particular, one aspect of great interest to a variety of stakeholders is that the use of the system resulted in greater patient compliance. It also provides cost savings, which makes it quite beneficial in an industry moving to a value-based healthcare system and seeing greater incorporation of bundled payments.
By Sean Fenske | Orthopedic Design & Technology
Image Credit: Sean Fenske / Orthopedic Design & Technology