In an August news release announcing the Persona IQ implant, Zimmer Biomet President and CEO Bryan Hanson said the company had expanded its partnership with Canary Medical and expects the smart knee to be “the first in a broader portfolio of smart implant technologies in various orthopedic surgery applications.”
The two companies are exploring adding sensors to other knee implants, as well as hip and shoulder implants, according to Dr. Bill Hunter, a founder and CEO of Canary Medical.
The Zimmer Biomet-Canary Medical partnership is just one of the smart implant efforts in the orthopedic device market.
Canary Medical, separately from Zimmer Biomet, is also working on smart screws for spinal procedures. Stryker, another devicemaker, this year acquired OrthoSensor, a company that develops sensors for total joint replacement—which Stryker at the time said could support work toward adding wearables and smart implants to its joint replacement business.
Stryker declined an interview request from Modern Healthcare.
Read more: Implants get ‘smart’ in orthopedics
Some of the metrics that smart implants would track—like step count—can be monitored with other, less invasive technologies, such as wearable fitness trackers. Previous studies have suggested step counts tracked with wearables can be used to predict length of stay after various surgeries, including hip replacements.
“Wearables are seeing an amazing renaissance,” said Glenn Snyder, who leads the medical technology practice at Deloitte.
But while “wearable sensors have amazing potential … in the end, it’s all dependent on the individual to wear them,” Snyder said.
Implantable devices don’t have that same compliance roadblock. With Zimmer Biomet’s smart knee, a patient’s data will be passively collected as long as they keep the base station in their home turned on and connected to the internet.
DePuy Synthes, the orthopedics arm of Johnson & Johnson’s medical devices group, is also working on making its products more digitally connected as part of a push toward personalized care. A year and a half ago, DePuy Synthes launched a brand called Velys focused on bringing digital technology to surgery, with plans to add pre-op and post-op tools.
“That journey is now something that needs to be tied together,” said I.V. Hall, vice president of research and development for robotics, digital solutions and capital equipment at DePuy Synthes. “It’s not just the implant instrument anymore. It’s how the patient is recovering and how the patient is actually preparing for that surgery.”
DePuy Synthes’ portfolio of digital technologies could one day include smart implants too. The company is looking into products incorporating sensors that collect patient data and has R&D teams focused on investigating sensor technologies like wearables and smart implants, according to Hall.
As an example, Hall said a smart implant could potentially help track whether a patient with a bone fracture is healing as expected.
“Our focus is on really putting data-driven insights into the system,” Hall said. “But we want to make sure that we’re collecting the right data—we’re collecting data that answers the questions that the surgeon has or solving a question around unmet needs.”