There are a slew of digital health startups looking to change the surgical space to make it more connected, from Hillrom’s surgical communication tool to Activ Surgical’s solution that gives surgeons real-time intraoperative visual data. 

London-based virtual surgery platform Proximie is looking to tackle surgical connectivity challenges with its augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence tools that let doctors remotely scrub into operations. The company was founded in 2016 by Dr. Nadine Hachach-Haram, who experienced that disconnect in surgery firsthand. 

“As a surgeon, I also recognize having worked in that environment for tens of thousands of hours, that the OR, in and of itself, has largely been very analog for decades. It’s an environment that is so rich with information and so important to the journey of the patient, and yet everything we do is actually quite disconnected and quite siloed. From the op [operative] notes to the imaging system we use, to the robot system we use, to even the open case that we do. It’s all quite disconnected.”

Preparing new surgeons to practice independently has been a historic medical challenge. In fact, according to a 2019 study, up to 30% of general surgery residents aren’t able to practice alone by the time they complete their training. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the need for digital tools.

However, today there are a number of computer-based surgical platforms for education. Research published in PlOS One found that a virtual operative assistant was able to be successfully introduced into a surgical teaching framework. Proximie isn’t the only digital tool looking to help new surgeons train either. Osso VRFundamentalVR and Touch Surgery have all created products aimed at training new doctors or helping practicing physicians sharpen their skills.

“I started to imagine a world where every OR could be connected, collaborative, data-driven and immersive,” Hachach-Haram said. “And imagine this world where we could drive expertise and the delivery of care for anywhere it’s needed. But we could create a web of connectivity that would enable us to really propose a common purpose to improve patient care.”

This fall, Proximie inked a deal with telehealth giant Teladoc that would combine Teladoc’s hardware with Proximie’s software. 

“Partnership is really an important part of that journey for us as well, where we found an organization with similar values, outlook and mission, a company that is very best-in-class from a hardware perspective. We are best-in-class from a software perspective,” Hachach-Haram said.

“We’re now bringing together these two forces, where Proximie can power the Teladoc hardware, make that hardware far more sophisticated, more useful, and enable us to also benefit from Teladoc’s market-leading range of hardware solutions.

“So hospitals that either have Teladoc’s hardware or are looking for a combined hardware-software solution can now access that through Proximie.” 

What does it look like in real life? 

MobiHealthNews sat in, virtually, on the first surgery to use the combined technology. When a viewer logs into the platform, they can see four different live screens. In this sleeve gastrectomy surgery, users could view videos of the operating room, an overhead image of the area being operated on, a view of the Stryker 1688 Laparoscope and an Olympus endoscope. Users are able to make notes on the platform, which become part of the surgical record, and can also talk during the procedure. 

Dr. Santiago Horgan, general and bariatric surgeon, and chief of minimally invasive surgery at the University of California San Diego, performed the surgery using the combined system. He said this type of technology could help surgeons evaluate their performance and improve it. 

“It’s very friendly and not invasive. You can go back and take a look at what you did and see if you want to do something different, and improve it. It’s a good way to give you feedback in a very easy and friendly manner,” Horgan said. 

The tool can also be used to help new doctors learn a procedure. Horgan said that he could give the video to his surgical fellows after the procedure so they could see his techniques. 

“I think it’s only going to change how we re-engage surgeons to learn new techniques and improve outcomes.” 

Editor’s note: All images in this story are courtesy of Proximie 

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