Smart Surgery

Telepresence for the OR: The Path Forward After COVID-19

08 Jan 2021

There are two fundamental yet contradictory trends playing out in operating rooms across the country. New technology that promises to revolutionize surgery is constantly hitting the market, making access to the OR for non-clinical personnel such as device representatives more important than ever. At the same time, COVID-19 has made that access nearly impossible.

OR access by non-essential personnel is important for many of the critical day-to-day operations that take place at hospitals, and these operations have suffered as a result of the pandemic. In order to facilitate a safe return to surgery and put hospitals in a better position post-pandemic, medtech representatives, medical school professors, and others need a virtual window into the operating room. The key question, of course, is what this virtual solution should look like. Is it just Zoom for the OR?

There are several opportunities to not only respond to the current crisis, but also to improve the existing OR model in order to make surgery safer, foster collaboration, and streamline real-world data collection even after the most serious threats from COVID- 19 recede. To accomplish this, telepresence in the OR should do the following:

  • Equip remote industry and clinical experts to better assist surgeons with new technology. Technology itself does not make surgery safer, but having surgeons who understand and know how to effectively use it during surgery certainly does. Even as promising new technology floods the market, many surgeons are hesitant to adopt these tools, due to complexity and unclear patient benefit. As a result, industry and clinical experts play a central role during surgeries, guiding surgeons on how to operate complex technology necessary for a particular operation. Previously, experts would fly across the country to be physically present in the OR during each operation. With travel restrictions and bans on non-essential personnel in Operating Rooms, this method is no longer viable.

    Telepresence in the OR would allow remote experts to communicate with surgeons and provide crucial instructions on complex technology, even from afar, and it would allow experts to provide input without obstructing the surgeon’s workflow.

    Additionally, virtual guidance offers a more cost-effective model for medtech vendors. Without long travel times and burdensome logistics, med tech device teams can oversee more procedures with the same number of industry representatives and can pass those savings on to their clinical customers.
  • Remove flow distributions like physical barriers to facilitate perioperative collaboration. Virtual access to the OR grants surgeons the ability to call other surgeons and experts in the field with the click of a button. Whether to brainstorm new research or walk through a complex medical procedure, surgical collaboration would be easier than ever. Furthermore, it presents a unique opportunity to improve training and mentoring for residents, fellows, and other surgeons by allowing them to virtually “enter” the OR for a more in-depth look at surgical processes.
  • Streamline and automate data collection, creating more real-world evidence. Telepresence in the OR should be more than just cameras. It should bring the remote expert’s eyes and ears into the OR, utilizing advanced technology to collect analytics that can improve workflow, surgical safety, and inventory cost control. With a digital solution that scans the room and tracks inventory of key supplies, hospitals could significantly cut costs by better understanding behavior and ordering new supplies only when necessary.

Despite the rise in Zoom-like telepresence options for the OR, no solution existed that enables improved clinical support and increased collaboration with a focus on data analytics — all on a vendor agnostic platform. That’s why caresyntax created CX-CONNECT, a telepresence and analytics solution for the OR that improves surgical procedures, collaboration, and training, all while collecting troves of valuable, real-world data for benchmark comparison. The platform involves the installation of cameras that can monitor room workflow and instrument exchange near the incision site, along with a dedicated headset to communicate directly with surgeons or their care teams. A remotely maneuverable physical laser pointer enables telepresence within the OR for easier instruction.

With CX-CONNECT, hospitals have access to critical video feeds that analyze surgical teamwork, efficiency, and errors in ways unattainable via in-person access. The resulting data provides valuable real-world insights for safer surgery, improved procedure throughput, and more efficient clinical and customer training. And this isn’t just a stop-gap measure for use during the pandemic — it’s a way forward that addresses present challenges while also allowing hospitals to improve standard practices and cut costs well after COVID-19.

Santosh Iyer

Written by Santosh Iyer

Santosh is Director of Advanced Technologies at caresyntax.

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