Fitbit motivates patients to move after surgery

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) A Los Angeles hospital is using Fitbits to measure how much patients walk after surgery, and doctors say it's helping predict how quickly a patient will be discharged.

Less than 24 hours after hip surgery, Richard Carpenter is back on his feet, a fitbit on his wrist counting every step.

"It's the best medicine, to tell you the truth, because with hips you'll get a limp and if you don't exercise regularly, they can't get rid of it," Carpenter said.

Carpenter is among a number of patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles wearing Fitbits to monitor how much they walk after surgery.

"One of the most important criteria for getting patients to leave the hospital and be able to be at home is to make sure they're walking and they're able to walk on their own," said the medical center's Dr. Tim Daskivich.

He led a study tracking patient's post surgery steps and found that for every 100 steps taken, the patient decreased the length of their hospital stay by four percent. The study focused on eight different surgeries and revealed walking was critical for recovery across the board. Patients are also encouraged to walk after surgery to try and reduce the risk of blood clots.

"What we found was the closer your step count was to a thousand steps on the first day after a major operation, the lower likelihood that you were gonna be in the hospital for a prolonged amount of time," Dr. Dakivich said.

To help encourage walking, Cedars-Sinai created an app that guides patients on tours of the hospital's art collection and tells them how many steps it takes to get to each piece. TV monitors in rooms also display the patient's progress.

Carpenter says tracking his steps motivates him to keep going. "You get up and play the game, I've got a goal -- 1,000 steps by 6 p.m. We'll see if I make it," he said.

He hopes each step gets him closer to going home.