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Zimmer and Apple launch clinical study covering up to 10K patients who get knee and hip replacements

Apple has made health — and helping people keep tabs on theirs — a cornerstone of how it is presenting the benefits of its newest Apple Watch, and today comes news of another way that this is taking shape. Zimmer Biomet , a world leader in developing the components and systems for joint replacements, says that it is working with Apple on a new clinical study focused on people who get knee and hip replacements. The trial will come in three stages, and within two years, Zimmer projects that there to be up to 10,000 people involved, Ted Spooner, Zimmer’s vice president of connected health, said in an interview. It will cover three aspects of patient care, he said: monitoring patients before and after operations using sensors on the Apple Watch and iPhone; providing education and information to patients to help improve their pre- and post-operation care; and providing a communications channel between doctors, caregivers and patients to ask questions, give answer and more, using Zimmer’s mymobility app. Institutions that will be participating include University of Utah Health; Rush University Medical Center; University of Pennsylvania Health System; Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital/Emory Healthcare; Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Southern California; Newton-Wellesley Hospital, member of Partners HealthCare founded by Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Centura Health, Porter Hospital – Colorado Joint Replacement (CJR); ROC Orthopedics, affiliated with Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center; OrthoBethesda; OrthoArizona; Midwest Center for Joint Replacement; Hartzband Center for Hip & Knee Replacement; New Mexico Orthopaedic Associates; The DeClaire LaMacchia Orthopaedic Institute, affiliated with Michigan Institute for Advanced Surgery; Joint Implant Surgeons; Orthopedic and Fracture Clinic; Panorama Orthopedic and Spine Center. The study — which for now will be US-only — comes after two years of Zimmer working with Apple behind the scenes, Spooner said, on not just making sure the parameters of what Zimmer hoped to achieve in a connected app would be possible, but also for Apple to understand what stakeholders in the health industry would want to see out of a health service built around a smartwatch and smartphone. Zimmer was a key target because today it accounts for one in every four knee replacements globally, and it has similarly strong market positions in hip, shoulder, foot, dental and spine products. A measure of where Apple is placing the importantance of this study is who they have commenting on its launch. “We believe one of the best ways to empower consumers is by giving them the ability to use their health and activity information to improve their own care,” said Jeff Williams, Chief Operating Officer, Apple, in a statement. “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.” Hip and knee replacements are the most common “replacement” procedures that take place, accounting for one million operations each year in the US, according to Deloitte, a figure that will grow to 3.5 million by 2035 as our population grows, stays alive for longer, and includes more people who were much more active in their earlier years in a wider upswing for fitness. You might assume that it would be an uphill challenge to sell the idea of connected health services to older people — who are the typical recipients of these operations — but Spooner said that the opposite is the case. “It turns out that the fastest adoption group for smartphones is 55-64 right now,” he said, saying that they are currently buying smartphones and other connected devices three times as fast as the next group down. Some of that of course might be because older people have been slower to adopt, but nevertheless, he points out, the stats “are really staggering, considering that other groups are at less than a two percent compound annual growth rate.” Smart watches, he said, have a similarly high growth rate among the elderly.

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Why missing Saudi journalist’s Apple Watch is an interesting, but unlikely, lead

Police investigating the missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi are searching for his Apple Watch to obtain his health and location data before his disappearance. But that may prove impossible, according to new details learned by TechCrunch. The Saudi-born U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist  went missing last week after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, reportedly to obtain marriage papers. His soon-to-be wife was waiting outside the consulate with Khashoggi’s iPhone. Khashoggi never emerged from the consulate, sparking a manhunt. It has been reported but not confirmed that he was killed inside the consulate. The Washington Post reports that U.S. intercepts showed efforts by the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman to lure the reporter back to the kingdom and detain him. Khashoggi was a vocal critic of the Saudi government. The Saudi kingdom has denied any involvement with his disappearance. On Wednesday, Reuters reported , citing Turkish officials, that investigators were looking to Khashoggi’s black Apple Watch that he was wearing as he entered the consulate. The inference was that any data collected by the Apple Watch could glean answers into health data, such as his heart rate, location or other clues. Turkey does not have the watch, Reuters said, suggesting it may have been lost, destroyed or remains in the custody of Saudi authorities. TechCrunch staff have scoured several photo libraries and social media and found one image of Khashoggi wearing a third-generation Apple Watch — based on the red dot on the watch’s crown.

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Apple’s Watch isn’t the first with an EKG reader but it will matter to more consumers

Apple’s COO Jeff Williams exuberantly proclaimed Apple’s Watch was the first to get FDA clearance as an over-the-counter electrocardiogram (EKG) reader during the special event at Apple headquarters on Wednesday. While Apple loves to be first to things, that statement is false. AliveCor has held the title of first since late last year for its KardiaMobile device, a $100 stick-like metal unit you attach to the back of a smartphone. Ironically, it also received FDA clearance for the Kardiaband, an ECG reader designed to integrate with the Apple Watch and sold at Apple stores and just this week , the FDA gave the go ahead for AliveCor’s technology to screen for blood diseases, sans blood test. However, the Apple Watch could be the first to matter to a wider range of consumers. For one, Apple holds a firm  17 percent of the world’s wearables market, with an estimated shipment volume of 28 million units in just 2018. While we don’t know how many AliveCor Kardiaband and KardiaMobile units were sold, it’s very unlikely to be anywhere near those numbers. For another thing, a lot of people, even those who suspect they have a heart condition, might have some hesitations around getting a separate device just to check. Automatic integration makes it easy for those curious to start monitoring without needing to purchase any extra equipment. Also, while heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. and affects a good majority of the global population, most of us probably aren’t thinking about our heart rhythm on a daily basis. Integrating an EKG reader straight into the Watch makes monitoring seamless and could take away the fear some may have about finding out how their heart is doing. Then there’s the Apple brand, itself.

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