Wearable sensors are at the cutting edge of medicine, with lots of research ongoing in cardiovascular and neurological applications, but so far they are viewed in orthopedics largely as marketing ploys, at best. Some companies, like Consensus, are trying to change that.
A few years ago, Consensus Orthopedics Inc. executives were examining ways to differentiate their small implant company from the global giants who dominate orthopedics. With less than 1% market share, they could ill afford to embark on long-term, expensive R&D projects or M&A that could cement their position with top hospitals and surgeons.
The company had built a successful niche providing high-quality, customized and flexible large joint implants and services to hip and knee surgeons, particularly those at the height of their careers, who are still able and eager to dictate the products they use in surgery and want to ‘leave a mark’ on their profession. But service as a differentiator only goes so far as younger surgeons are increasingly employees and thus less able to dictate their product preferences, surgeon fees are cut, and the large joint implant market is decidedly seen as commoditized.
Leveraging the leadership team’s expertise, however, the company saw another opening for getting ahead: applying connected health technologies to the tightrope of surgeon-patient relationships.
CEO Colleen Gray had founded StorageWay, one of the first cloud-based storage companies, prior to joining Consensus 14 years ago. President Curt Wiedenhoefer built from scratch Eisenlohr Technologies, a maker of medical electronic devices. They saw many ways to use new digital technologies to improve the care of total joint replacement (TJR) patients, despite the high success rates for both hip and knee surgery. For example, some surgeons are clamoring for greater objectivity in patient-reported outcomes (PROMs) and pain measurements, and Consensus Ortho executives thought better real-time data and connectivity could be applied to help fill that need.
More broadly, bundled payments were gaining traction following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the ongoing, relentless cost pressures that were spurring adoption of value-based care. At the same time, medical professional societies, including orthopedics, are increasingly embracing evidence-based medicine. Both trends could benefit from data-driven solutions—and preferably lots of them, quickly.
Gray and Wiedenhoefer hit on the idea of developing a medical grade, wearable patch offering real-time, pre-op and post-op patient monitoring and analytics continuously—just the right duration to get through an episode of care (EOC), as payors have defined the term in orthopedics.
The TracPatch wearable sensor system, which is the fruit of this labor, aims to do just that. The metrics it captures are: pain scores, which are entered manually, as well as wound photos, and passive capture of range of motion, exercise compliance, activity levels, and ambulation. (see Figure 1). Skin temperature is also measured but not displayed pending 510 (k) clearance, which the company is seeking to gain in the first quarter of 2019.