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3 Things I Learned at MD&M West on Day 1

MD+DI News Editor Amanda Pedersen shares three quick takeaways from the first day of MD&M West 2020.

There's always plenty to learn, see, and do at MD&M West in Anaheim, CA.

1. The Ever-Evolving Digital Age Is Creating Super Surgeons

Using his fellow panelist Christopher Macomber, MD, as an example, Kyle Miller, MD, explained how emerging technology like machine learning and automated performance metrics can create "super surgeons." But it's going to require acceptance by the surgeons. Miller is the senior global clinical marketing manager at Irvine, CA-based Intuitive Surgical, and Macomber is chair of robotic surgery at Minneapolis, MN-based Abbott Northwestern Hospital, part of Allina Health Surgical Specialists.

"If you think about a user like Chris, and all of these surgeons that have grown up with electronics and they've grown up in the digital age, I think it's going to be a willingness to actually accept some of the augmentation and trust it, so we have to get that right. Being able to deliver him the right information at the right time and augmenting his capabilities, so it's almost like these super surgeons," Miller said. "If you think about some of the ways we can actually augment his capabilities, if you had machine learning whenever he's in a case helping him identify the structures in real time, giving him guide posts, giving him the safety lanes ... just like surgeons prior to Chris' generation had to be able to accept video-assisted laparoscopic surgery, robotic surgery, and now digital."

2. Think Self-Driving Cars, but with Surgical Robots

Gianluca De Novi, PhD, CEO at Cambridge, MA-based Xsurgical, envisions a future where surgical robots can be deployed to wherever the patient is, using automation, artificial intelligence, and other cutting-edge technologies.

"You know, self-driving cars didn't start self driving. They started self parking. They started as a parking assistant with small tasks that became more and more autonomous," De Novi said during a panel on the transformation of minimally invasive surgery. 

Xsurgical is trying to do something very similar in surgical robotics in order to make robotic surgery more cost effective and more accessible, particularly in remote areas where patients do not have easy access to a large hospital system like Abbott Northwestern, where Macomber works.

"These kinds of surgeries are not only needed at the biggest hospitals, they're needed pretty much everywhere," De Novi siad. "If you live in the middle of the country ... and what about the war zones? What about third-world countries?"

Remote-controlled surgical robots that are shared among a group of smaller hospitals, could very well be the answer.

3. So That's What Bioelectronic Medicine Is

Like a lot of medical device industry spectators, I've been intrigued by the concept of bioelectronic medicine for a while now. And yet, if you had asked me last week what bioelectronic medicine is, I probably would have mentioned some companies that are working in the space – BioSig, SetPoint Medical, and Galvani Bioelectronics – but I would have had a tough time giving you a clear explanation of what bioelectronic medicine actually means. Thanks to a MD&M West panel, I now have a definitition that helps me to better wrap my mind around what this space is evolving into.

"We're jumping ahead of more of this digital dose of space where we're delivering things to alter or correct disease states," said Gulam Emadi, principal systems engineer at SetPoint during a panel discussion Tuesday. “Our company is paving the way in making people aware of it.”

SetPoint is developing a bioelectronic device to treat patients with drug-refractory RA.

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