Recognizing the value of apps, the orthopedic device industry has expectedly entered the mobile space. Some may contend that industry apps only exist to sell products; and in some sense, this is true. However, in an intensely knowledge-driven field such as orthopedics, selling a product rests on more than a catchy jingle.
As we will discuss in this month’s Ortho Apps column, many companies have developed apps for patient awareness, surgeon education or other purposes. Generally, companies have released apps to either connect directly with surgeons or patients. We will examine a few industry-related apps in this month’s column whose audience is the orthopedic surgeon.
Traditionally, implant sales representatives have demonstrated surgical techniques and product features through hard copy technique guides. Sales staff now commonly port iPads into the operating room (OR) to better demonstrate these concepts with mobile apps that display the company’s full complement of technique guides and multimedia aids. Our research with various sales reps indicates that some companies have released these apps on a limited basis only, restricting access to sales reps. At the time of the writing of this column, Zimmer and Tornier were two such companies. Other implant manufacturers, such as DePuy-Synthes and Acumed, have released mobile versions of their content for surgeons and the general public.
Instrumentation technique manuals
As of press time, DePuy and Synthes officially completed their merger. Prior to that, Synthes had led the way in the mobile sphere by placing all of their instrumentation technique manuals and a significant amount of multimedia content into a mobile app. Now that the two companies have merged, DePuy-Synthes has put out a combined app which is voluminous in its content. The app is free and replaces multiple large binders’ worth of information. The utility of having every technique guide at one’s finger tips in such a mobile format is obvious: having step-by step instructions at one’s fingertips to better educate you or your staff on an upcoming case without the need for an Internet connection makes case preparation easier.
While the two companies have now merged, the Synthes arm of the app is still out in front of the DePuy section. All of the technique guides are complete and available. In addition, there are surgical approach videos, AO fracture classification sections and clinical case studies. The DePuy section has some catching up to do. While most of the main technology platforms are in the app, the technique manuals are not as complete. For instance, a search under the “DePuy” “orthopaedics” section guides the user to implant options such as the “Pinnacle” cup system where only a limited patient guide was found. Additionally, the “spine” section in the main menu seemed to cover the Synthes spine solutions, while the DePuy spine products were available for view under the “DePuy” heading. A technique guide for the Summit hip stem and other products were not found. Another user note – the DePuy spine section appeared to be one of the most complete, and like the Synthes trauma section, contained many technique videos and other tools.
Upper extremity app
Acumed has made a name for itself by providing highly specific implant solutions in the upper extremity and small bone space. They have released a free app that highlights all of their products and compiles a thorough collection of all of their technique guides and implant indications. Perhaps in an effort to reflect the company’s attention to design detail, the app conveys a polished and sleek feel that is easy to navigate. The main menu is broken into two primary headings: “solutions” and “resources.” Going into “solutions” takes the user to a menu of anatomic locations: elbow, shoulder, etc. Pressing the “resources” menu takes the user to menu choices of “literature library” and “video library.” Time-pressed surgeons should find the simplicity and minimalist nature of the app appealing as it seems to guide you where you need to go without much distraction. Users of Acumed’s products will find this app helpful.
Stryker’s OpTech Live is a mobile app that seemingly contains the entire Stryker line of technique guides. It also has “My Library” that allows the user to store favorite guides. The only catch with the app seems to be that it is not available without a Wi-Fi connection. This is a bit of a drawback as one of the major advantages of mobile apps is the ability to access content without the need for Internet service, and experience suggests to these authors that some ORs have notoriously poor Wi-Fi service. The Stryker Meeting App is a free app that allows Stryker meeting attendees to keep up-to-date with meeting related schedules, speaker information, maps and venue information. Note that Stryker, in particular, has published many apps, so it is important to check the app title before download.
Exactech is another company that has released its technique guides, videos and promotional materials in an app. At www.Exactech2go.com, users can obtain this information, but only on mobile compatible browsing platforms not standard web browsers. The app is currently being released on a limited basis to surgeons. However, representatives from the company tell us that they are developing multiple new apps that have not yet been released.
Exchange of knowledge
An important user note is that apps like these contain a tremendous amount of content, can take longer than usual to initially download and are updated frequently.
An important part of the industry-surgeon relationship rests on the exchange of knowledge between company representatives and physicians. This information exchange helps to sort out the value-added innovation from the “me-too” products. Ultimately, mobile technology should accelerate this information exchange and lead to more efficient knowledge transfer between these two parties. While this review is not exhaustive, it should give you a better understanding of what industry has to offer in a convenient mobile format.
- 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 email@example.com.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Disclosures: DiPaola and Franko have no relevant financial disclosures.