Should AI assist in surgical decision-making?

There’s a push for AI/ML to reduce the staggering number of preventable deaths due to surgical error.

The first and second leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease and cancer. The third is now coronavirus. Know what’s next?

Astoundingly, the answer is preventable medical errors. Surgical errors in particular account for 26% of these deaths and cost somewhere north of $36 billion in the U.S. I did a double take when I read those stats while reporting this story. Some of the most common laparoscopic procedures, things like colectomies, hysterectomies, and gastrectomies result in an astounding number of preventable deaths.

Fully automated surgeries performed by robots is still a ways off. In the meantime, developers are trying to beat those grim numbers by harnessing the best of human decision making and coupling it with truly exceptional technology tools designed to assist surgeons. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are often touted as solutions for call centers and to provide intelligent insights to companies that have reams of data that needs to be processed, but leveraging AI/ML to better medical outcomes could be one of the transformative technologies of our time.

“Surgical decision-making is dominated by hypothetical-deductive reasoning, individual judgment, and heuristics,” write the authors of a recent JAMA Surgery paper called Artificial Intelligence and Surgical Decision-making. “These factors can lead to bias, error, and preventable harm. Traditional predictive analytics and clinical decision-support systems are intended to augment surgical decision-making, but their clinical utility is compromised by time-consuming manual data management and suboptimal accuracy.”

The paper’s authors propose AI as an effective augmentation tool to enhance in situ surgical decision making. We’re already seeing the first examples of this come to market. For example, a company called Activ Surgical, a digital surgery company focused on improving patient outcomes, recently debuted its ActivEdge platform, an AI/ML platform designed to provide critical real-time intelligence and visualization to surgeons. The platform and its associated products will be initially available in the U.S. market, with plans to commercialize globally in 2021.

“The future of surgery is collaborative, with human judgment and wisdom augmented by robotics precision,” said Todd Usen, CEO, Activ Surgical. “With nearly 400,000 deaths in the U.S. every year due to avoidable medical errors, our surgical intelligence platform is designed to dramatically improve outcomes, safety and accessibility by arming surgeons with real-time information to make better informed decisions. We look forward to empowering global access to best-in-class surgery, regardless of location, saving millions of lives in the process.”

By Greg Nichols | ZDNet

Image Credit: Greg Nichols / ZDNet


About Peter Coffaro 487 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 25 years of progressive management success within the medical device industry. Recognized by the World Journal of Orthopedics, Exponential Healthtech, and as one of the top medical sales influencers in the industry; he has 10 years of combined sales management experience and has held positions as a Director, General Manager, Distributor, and Vice President. Peter has worked for some of the top orthopedic companies in the world - Zimmer, DePuy, and Stryker. He is also the founder of OrthoFeed: a popular blog that covers digital orthopedic news and emerging medical technologies. Peter is a three-time Hall of Fame award winner at Johnson and Johnson and has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, digital marketing, and professional education. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology and Chemistry from Northern Illinois University.

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