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Archive Hot Technology 2020

Informed Decisions Enhance Patient Safety

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality are helping surgeons leverage data to perform safer surgeries.

Joe Paone

Joe Paone


FUTURE LOOK Surgeons wearing VR headsets are able to prepare better for surgeries, as well as get "hands-on" experience with new tools and techniques.

Every day, your OR teams use numerous real-world products and evidence-based techniques to better ensure every patient’s safety. However, when adverse events or near misses occur, or when process improvements are sought to improve patient safety, it’s not easy to generate usable data that can be analyzed and acted upon. Digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are helping facilities access and analyze much more data than ever before. It’s all part of an emerging environment in which digital technologies enable more precise, efficient and accurate surgeries with a higher degree of safety.

Artificial intelligence

The literature has produced a wealth of studies on AI’s potential to make procedures safer and more effective. AI can be used to assess data collected from past cases to predict where polyps may be present during screening colonoscopies. The information provides physicians with a better ability to detect and diagnose colorectal polyps they may have previously missed due to human error or blind spots (

Orthopedic surgeon Kevin Stone, MD, of San Francisco’s Stone Clinic, uses AI to perfect surgical techniques. Dr. Stone uploads his medical records to an AI-driven data-mining system to perform outcome studies on procedures his clinic has developed for meniscus transplantation, Achilles tendon and cartilage repair, and comparison of allograft and autograft ACL reconstructions. Among other benefits, the resulting information gleaned from AI enhances patient safety. “We don’t think a doctor should do something to, or put something in, a patient that they don’t study outcomes for, and try to improve the process,” says Dr. Stone.

One AI-based system attracting attention is the OR Black Box, a medical data recorder that captures the patient’s physiological data, audio and video of the surgical team, and images of the surgical field, including video from endoscopic cameras. All that data is sent to a central server for analysis. That might sound a bit Big Brother, but the system’s creator says its real purpose is process improvement in the OR, especially in the wake of adverse events and near misses. The system can detect trends and provide insights on factors that might have gone unnoticed or aren’t fully understood or accounted for, like inefficiencies and distractions.

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