Despite its technical nature, healthcare moves at a rather stately pace in adopting new care models and technologies. Innovative materials, robotic surgery tools and a fulsome ASC market have long loomed on the orthopedic horizon. In speaking to industry insiders, we believe many of these trends are reaching critical mass and are about to exert real force on the market.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most rapidly-developing technologies in orthopedics. It is ubiquitous in our daily lives, from autonomous vacuum cleaners to the panoply of “personal assistants” on smart devices. For some of us, however, AI still conjures ideas more suited to science fiction.
To get a sense of what AI is doing in orthopedics today, we spoke with two executives immersed in the field. Rob Kraal is the Vice President and General Manager of Zimmer Biomet’s Connected Health Group. Peter Verrillo is the founder and CEO of Enhatch, a software company with an intelligent surgery ecosystem. The two represent the spectrum of companies introducing AI in orthopedics, from the traditional implant giants to the startup software companies.
So, how would they describe artificial intelligence and machine learning to a layperson?
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Peter Verrillo offered a simple definition of artificial intelligence. “Here’s the loose definition of how I describe AI: it’s anything that a human would normally have had to do but is now a software solution that a computer interprets,” he said. “We have optical character recognition on our phones. You take a picture, and it will tell you the text. It doesn’t feel like artificial intelligence, but it still is, fundamentally.”
As consumers of technology, we tend to move the goal posts on AI as it creeps into our lives and elevates our expectations. Verrillo pointed out how normal it is for our phones to remind us to eat better or “know” to suggest the fastest route to your child’s school at a particular time.
Verrillo’s working definition isn’t far from Microsoft’s description of the technology: a computer system that mimics human cognitive functions like learning and problem solving through math and logic. But where does machine learning come into play?
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