Predictions for Digital Surgery in 2021

Predictions for Digital Surgery in 2021

Max Weinerman, Anna Giese, BrainlabMax Weinerman, Anna Giese, Brainlab
Healthcare technology is evolving at a rapid pace, constantly bringing about new software and devices for hospitals and patients. Predicting what’s to come is therefore essential for staying ahead of the medtech curve. In the case of surgery, we see the future as digital, with open platforms, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality increasing workflow efficiency. In this article, we’ve outlined more specifically how we see each of these digital surgery technologies impacting the future of healthcare.

Open platform ecosystems

In the past, many healthcare and medical device companies created proprietary, siloed platforms leading to operating rooms (O.R.s) being overcrowded with different systems that didn’t work together. As Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems have become standard, transferring data between disparate healthcare systems via HL7 messaging, the demand for holistic, integrated data ecosystems has grown exponentially. We foresee an increasing need for vendors to provide open system platforms with the ability to easily and securely share data. When investing in new systems, hospitals should consider how technologies will be able to work and integrate with the established IT infrastructure, including Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS), Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) and EMR, as well as other vendor systems.

Surgical workflow efficiency

The O.R. is one of the largest revenue drivers for hospitals, but it is also a principal area in which efficiency can be lost due to the continued use of analog processes. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare institutions have had to refrain from performing elective surgeries.

In order to meet the backlog of surgical procedures in 2021, it will be imperative for operating rooms to become as efficient, effective and safe as possible. Introducing an integrated O.R. solution digitalizes some of the most time-consuming processes, including documentation, to help improve efficiency. Connecting the generation, aggregation and analyzation of pre-, intra- and post-op patient data requires deep IT integration, however, this is a great step towards modernizing the entire surgical workflow.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Across a multitude of industries, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), algorithms that perform tasks and improve automatically through experience, have already become standards of practice within the realm of big data analytics. In healthcare, the patient care team, including surgeons and radiologists, spends a large amount of time analyzing patient information and images saved on the EMR as they plan surgeries. AI and ML can automate previously cumbersome manual steps of surgical planning, providing advanced detail for diagnosis and supporting assessment and decision-making.

Augmented and Mixed Reality

Augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) have continued to transform from technologies used by consumers to impactful tools in healthcare. Surgeons are already experiencing data and controlling connected systems more efficiently and ergonomically with AR in the O.R., which overlays relevant data onto live microscope or exoscope images. MR goggles merge the real and the virtual world to help with patient consultation, surgical planning review and interdisciplinary collaboration. As MR devices become more light-weight with greater fields of view, the feasibility of bringing them into the O.R. grows significantly. The outlook for MR is that this technology may soon be used intraoperatively, overlaying the surgical plan onto the real patient with a glance.

About Brainlab

Brainlab creates software-driven medical solutions that digitize, automate and optimize clinical workflows for neurosurgery, spine, trauma, craniomaxillofacial (CMF), general and vascular surgery as well as radiotherapy and radiosurgery. Core products center around surgical navigation, radiotherapy, digital operating room integration, and information and knowledge exchange. For more information, please visit Brainlab and follow on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.