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November 18, 2016

Surgical app company Touch Surgery signs agreement with Ethicon

Mhealth apps created by Touch Surgery, aimed at surgeons who want to practice complicated surgical procedures, will get a much broader audience, TechCrunch writes. The London based ehalth company has signed an agreement for strategic collaboration with Johnson & Johnson medical devices subsidiary Ethicon.

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Touch Surgery’s apps (for Android and iOS) are aimed at helping medical students and working surgeons to practice ahead of medical procedures. For each procedure a module can be downloaded, consisting of 3D rendered representations of the procedures. The apps use computer-rendered content rather than video because it can be surprisingly difficult to see what is going on in a video. Also, this way it’s easier to highlight key elements of a procedure.

Cofounders Andre Chow and Jean Nehme were surgical trainees and as such experienced many of the problems affecting surgery today. One such problem is how to train medical students on a much bigger scale. Chow explains that surgeons are trained as apprentices, which works well but scales very poorly to meet  the global need of surgery. “We wanted to use technology to improve standards of surgical training around the world and to have an impact on patient care.”

Ambitious goals

TechCrunch quotes Chow as saying Touch Surgery has 1.5 million users worldwide already. The company’s app currently covers more than 75 procedures, but the company has ambitious goals for further growth.  “We already have the world’s largest digital surgical community. We are operating on a completely different scale to other surgical training solutions. The Johnson & Johnson deal feels like a culmination of our efforts to date.”

One new goal is to step back into the operating room and apply the Touch Surgery technology to aid the operative environment itself. In order to get here, the company spent the last few years ‘truly understanding surgical procedures – how they are done and how surgeons make decisions in the operating room. To aid its goal, the company has raised more than $10m from some big-name investors, including Balderton Capital, Redline Capital and others.

Novel delivery mechanism

The company is acting within a highly competitive simulation market. But using iPads as the delivery mechanism for the training, is a novel approach, Chow states. “Simulators have benefits and can be proven to have a positive effect on surgical training. However, I think everyone in the field acknowledges that simulation hasn’t yet had the impact on surgery that we had all hoped.”

Touch Surgery’s solution has the ability to reach a much broader audience, because only an iPad is needed. “To use a physical simulator requires access to an appropriate facility with the appropriate staffing in a hospital. Expensive simulators are often kept locked away, with high maintenance costs.”

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