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How Fitness Tracking Devices Help Surgical Patients Recover

By Vera Gruessner

- While the healthcare industry does have a focus on improving wellness and reducing the risk of serious medical conditions through fitness tracking devices and other mobile health tools, diseases and health problems do occur throughout the nation. Many patients may need to undergo surgery for treatment and a cure. However, after surgery, many wonder – how long will it take me to recover?

Fitness Tracking Devices

Researchers from Northwestern University have attempted to answer this question with the help of fitness tracking devices. A new study hailing from Northwestern used FitBit trackers to capture data on patients’ recovery time including the number of steps they took and physical activity levels for six months after a surgery.

Northwestern University investigators worked alongside of experts from New York University and the University of California, San Francisco. The Spine Study Group funded the research among the three different sites.

The researchers were able to compare the recovery time data to exercise and wellness information from the four weeks prior to the surgery. So far, the results look promising.  There are significant benefits when fitness tracking devices are used to manage and oversee patient health after a serious operation.

“An activity monitor allows us to have an objective, numerically exact and continuous measure of activity. This can show exactly how much function a patient has regained and, critically, when and if it occurs during the recovery period,” Zachary Smith, MD, Assistant Professor in Neurological Surgery and a Principal Investigator of the study, said in a public statement. “This may allow us to predict when a patient will be back to 50 percent activity, 100 percent activity or even 200 percent activity in the future.”

The types of surgical patients being enrolled in the study include those with degenerative diseases and spine deformities like scoliosis. The plan is to incorporate fitness tracking devices in studying recovery time with all patients who’ve had their spine operated on, Dr. Smith explained.

“We’ve already seen how surgery changes activity in our first patients,” Dr. Smith continued. “It appears that almost all patients go through a four- to six-week period where their activity is decreased. Just over a month out from many of the surgeries, they get back to their pre-operative level. Then they slowly continue to climb to new levels of activity that they could never have reached before.”

Smith went on to explain that the clinical researchers are looking to integrate the use of fitness tracking devices into their everyday workflow in order to better study their patients and better predict their health outcomes. Additionally, fitness tracking devices and other mobile health tools are expected to make a sincere impact on patient engagement.

By using fitness tracking devices, patients will be able to see their own health improve over time and it will likely keep them more engaged and active throughout their recovery.

“I strongly believe that a motivated patient will get better results,” Smith concluded. “Working hand-in-hand with our patients to improve our outcomes will only make us more effective.”

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