Ortho Apps

Further patient, health care provider education with 3-D anatomy apps

This month, we will explore a suite of 3-D anatomy apps designed by 3D4Medical, in conjunction with Stanford University School of Medicine. Although many companies have published apps focused on teaching anatomy to patients, students and health care providers, 3D4Medical’s apps are some of the best that we have reviewed because of their smooth user platform, anatomically accurate models and 3-D rendering capabilities. In addition, they have apps dedicated entirely to orthopedic topics, including: Essential Anatomy, Orthopedic Patient Education, Skeleton System Pro, Spine Pro, Knee Pro, Shoulder Pro, Hip Pro, Foot and Ankle Pro, and Hand and Wrist Pro.

Each app incorporates the same design by presenting a particular body part as a 3-D model that can be moved freely in space (rotate, zoom, etc.). The tool panel includes the ability to remove “layers” including skin, superficial muscles, deep muscles, nerves and ligaments, and a final layer that demonstrates muscular origins and insertions “painted” on the bones. At any time, and from any layer, the user can “pin” (mark) anatomic structures. Selecting a muscle’s pin, for example, will read the muscle name out loud and present information about its origin, insertion, action, nerve supply and blood supply.

What sets these apps apart, however, are the use of animations for teaching students and patients about diseases and surgical procedures. The Shoulder Pro app includes animations on the topic of shoulder arthroplasty, osteoarthritis, rotator cuff repair, AC ligament injury and subacromial bursitis, as well as many others. Selecting the rotator cuff repair video, for example, uses the anatomic models to demonstrate a surgery where a knife makes skin incisions, followed by arthroscopic tools to debride the frayed tendon, drill bone tunnels, place suture anchors and repair the tendon down to its anatomic position. Accurately explaining this procedure to a patient without visual tools is difficult. These types of videos are sometimes difficult to find on the Internet, yet each of these apps has a large selection of the most common procedures from which to choose.

Matthew DiPaola

Orrin I. Franko

Lastly, if the surgical teaching videos are your primary interest, 3D4Medical has released “Orthopedic Patient Education,” which incorporates 141 anatomical videos that cover anatomy (25 videos), conditions (84 videos) and treatments (32 videos). This app alone would be a valuable addition to an orthopedic clinic office waiting room.

We will now continue this column by interviewing Niall Johnston, BComm, vice president of business development for 3D4Medical.

Matthew DiPaola, MD; and Orrin I. Franko, MD: Please tell us about your company and how you got into orthopedic app development?

Niall Johnston, BComm: We have been developing medical apps since the App Store opened, long before the release of the iPad. We are the most successful medical app publisher on the iPad and typically have up to eight of the top 20 grossing apps at any given time. Our first two apps were the Muscle System and Skeletal System, and we have since progressed from there to develop the rest of our anatomy series.

DiPaola and Franko: Why did you choose to focus on orthopedic and musculoskeletal anatomy?

We recognized early on that there was a demand for these types of apps, and we have the wherewithal and creativity to present the content in both an interactive and educational manner. Then we found the experts we needed for each of our apps and made it happen.

DiPaola and Franko: A unique feature of your apps is the focus on patient education of procedures. What made you interested in focusing on this area?

Johnston: One of our strengths is developing animations. It turns out, that after publishing our anatomy apps, we were contacted by our customers who begged us to create animations showing conditions and procedures. With help from patients and providers, we are happy to have created a large library of these videos.

DiPaola and Franko: How do you see your current apps or future apps assisting patients and surgeons in new and innovative ways?

Johnston: We have plans to create solutions that go far beyond the traditional licensing of apps through the App Store, i.e., ways to integrate with hospital systems. I cannot reveal much more information at this time, but look for news from us by the end of the second quarter or early third quarter of 2013.

DiPaola and Franko: Is there anything else you would like to share with orthopedic surgeons?

Johnston: Educating patients and improving patient satisfaction are key mantras in modern medical circles. Try our apps, and please tell us how they achieve those goals and how we can improve them.

For more information:
Matthew DiPaola, MD, is an assistant professor and shoulder and elbow specialist in the Department of Orthopedics at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He is a writer for iMedical Apps and co-founder of Touch Consult, a developer of team-based medical software to improve signout. He can be reached at matthew.dipaola@wrightstatephysicians.org.
Orrin I. Franko, MD, is a PGY4 orthopedic resident at UC San Diego. He has an interest in promoting mobile technology within orthopedic surgery and founded the website www.TopOrthoApps.com to help surgeons and trainees find the most relevant orthopedic apps for their mobile devices. He can be reached at orrin@toporthoapps.com.
Niall Johnston, BComm, can be reached at 7704 Concerto Ln., San Diego, CA 92127; email: nialljohnston@3d4medical.com.
Disclosures: DiPaola and Franko have no relevant financial disclosures. Johnston is the cofounder and vice president of business development at 3D4Medical.