While 2020 brought unpredictability, it highlighted numerous opportunities for improvement of processes and technologies. Considering what shifts the orthopedic community might make in 2021 and beyond, we reached out to three entrepreneurial surgeons managing clinical, technological and business needs. We asked our lineup of surgeons about the issues they faced in 2020 and how what they learned will impact the future of orthopedic technology. Here’s what they had to say.
The Digital Disruptor
Justin Barad, M.D., CEO and Co-Founder of Osso VR, a virtual reality surgical training and assessment platform
Digital Transformation Truly Takes Time
“We’ve all learned a number of lessons throughout this unprecedented year, but I think the most important lesson for me has been coming to the realization that digital transformation truly takes time. Our partners who had taken the time and effort to invest in digital infrastructure prior to this year were in a far better position to weather the storm of COVID-19. We are now at another crossroads where it is unclear what ‘the new normal’ will look like and what the landscape will be in orthopedics in 2021. Will things revert to ‘business as usual?’ Will we be facing restrictions and lower volumes for the foreseeable future? Will it be a combination of the two? I believe the latter is the most likely. When reflecting upon this year, I'm reminded of the quote, ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’ These obstacles we’ve faced in 2020 will remain to some degree, making it crucial to start the process for change now.”
Shifts Must Take Place in Patient Care Fundamentals
“Medicine and surgery are historically somewhat conservative when it comes to technology, given the high risks we undertake as surgeons. However, we’ve recently seen a shift in the fundamental dynamics of day-to-day patient care. The technology solutions are becoming undeniably effective, sometimes ten times better than traditional care. There is a growing comfort with technology given its ubiquitous nature in our lives. We faced some skepticism and reluctance during the rollout of EMR systems, which were perceived quite negatively, but we are now overcoming this dynamic. The problems are too large to ignore. COVID-19 has brought bubbling, potentially existential, issues in healthcare to the forefront, which is forcing us to address them.
“While, traditionally, we have focused on what we do to patients (such as a hip replacement), there is now a realization that how we care for patients may have a greater impact (such as how efficiently and effectively we perform that hip replacement, how we make the decision to operate in the first place and how we care for the patient post-operatively). Some of the challenges may be that there are a large number of potential solutions on the market emerging at an accelerating pace, making it critical to develop a process for clarifying and prioritizing the problems to solve and objectively evaluating the available solutions to optimize ROI. I think it is an incredibly exciting time to be working in the field of orthopedic technology!”
The Additive Adopter
Alexis Dang, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of PrinterPrezz, a technology company that combines 3D printing with nano technologies for spinal devices
Adapt and Integrate
“One major lesson that everyone learned in 2020 is that you need to be able to adapt, to integrate new needs/technologies, to think beyond traditional approaches. With additive manufacturing, we are already taught to think and work beyond traditional limitations. That kind of approach helped the additive industry rise and respond to the challenges around COVID-19. Supply chain security was also tested, both in terms of the availability of materials and the performance of alternative materials. At the same time, we realized the importance of validating and vetting our supply chains. As a surgeon, I am always thinking about plan B, C and D for a surgery and how to adapt as the situation changes. The industry will need to do the same.”
Move Beyond Traditional Manufacturing
“This opens the door for moving beyond the traditional manufacturing chain and processes. This year has shown the world the importance of every member of the team and how interconnected our teams are. Supply chain security and manufacturing redundancy will now be considered as part of every product design. This makes it harder for the smaller companies, but we may see a consolidation of efforts amongst smaller companies where they would focus on their key design differentiation and leave the manufacturing and process optimization to companies like PrinterPrezz. I believe this will be a very efficient way to harness and quickly commercialize the innovation found in small and medium-size companies.”
The Surgical Simplifier
Vinod Dasa, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, SIGHT Medical, a developer of service automation and operating room process management solutions
Create Resilient Processes
“One of the biggest lessons is trying to create resilient processes that can adapt and adjust to changing circumstances. We have seen a tremendous upheaval within healthcare over the past decade and many of those changes, such as lean six-sigma projects to minimize waste, have reduced the resiliency of the system. As COVID-19 shows us the areas of liabilities, we can start to create a more resilient system by deploying technologies or other solutions.”
Change Your Habits
“COVID-19 has taught us the current paradigm in supporting orthopedic surgeries is outdated. The model hasn’t changed in decades and technologies may need to be developed to reduce our reliance on vulnerable manual workflows. From medical education to intraoperative technical support, some of our habits may have to change. This creates a unique opportunity for stakeholders to re-examine their processes and try to optimize and address those inefficiencies and mitigate those risks. Whether it’s creating intraoperative technology like robots that can reduce the need to manage complex instrumentation or creating technology to help the sales force cover more than one case at a time, the door has been opened for everyone to re-assess their vulnerabilities.”
Kathie Zipp is an ORTHOWORLD Contributor.