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Teleconferencing in the OR

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    October 29, 2020

    An audio/video solution enables medical device reps to still make appearances in the OR to support surgeons and healthcare providers.

    With the arrival of COVID-19, strict restrictions were put in place regarding medical device reps being allowed into the OR during procedures. As a result, surgeons and healthcare professionals lost a valuable support mechanism that had been in place previously. Since some surgeons may be less familiar with a device, it can be invaluable to have a rep within the room to aid with questions or to clarify any confusion connected to the system.

    Fortunately, technology has rapidly developed to keep people connected. That includes the medical device rep and surgeon. Although it has taken some getting used to, healthcare professionals are learning to adapt to virtual solutions just as their patients are for other tasks and daily activities.

    To find out more about this dynamic, ODT reached out to Jennifer Fried, Co-Founder and CEO of ExplORer Surgical, to get her perspective on how the device rep/healthcare professional interaction has changed in the face of the pandemic, the technology that’s enabling it today, and how it might benefit surgeons after the pandemic is over.

    Sean Fenske: What is ExplORer Surgical and what does the company do?

    Jennifer Fried: ExplORer Surgical is a leading platform for intraoperative surgical and interventional procedure workflow management and analytics, improving communication and performance in the OR. ExplORer helps medical device companies and surgical teams reduce variability and bring best practices to life by providing a customized digital playbook software for use during procedures. ExplORer can be used in-person or remotely through real-time audio and video guidance.

    ExplORer Surgical offers the only comprehensive case support platform with video, digital procedural playbooks, and real-time intraoperative data capabilities. Customized to any specialty, case, or role, the platform scales to support every case of the healthcare provider’s journey from training to procedures, remote or in-person. It is the only platform that puts best practices alongside the rep or proctor, offering more than collaboration and generating granular, structured data that informs new insights into proficiency and efficiency. Founded in research at the University of Chicago, it is used by hundreds of reps and healthcare providers.

    Fenske: How has COVID-19 changed the dynamic between medical device reps and healthcare providers?

    Fried: It is an ever-changing tale of 50 states, and each geography has its own set of evolving policies. Access is no longer guaranteed. Now, it’s considered a privilege and is limited to no more than one person from each company. Typically, representatives for complex procedures are allowed in to support cases, but access for trainees is restricted.

    Fenske: With less than 20 percent of medical device reps able to cover cases in person, what are the possible effects of this?

    Fried: When a medical device representative can’t attend a case, physicians may choose to use a competing product to get support. Physicians have canceled or postponed cases when reps can’t attend their case. The worst-case scenario is that a patient is impacted because a company isn’t able to provide support on their products. As a result of this, companies are doing everything possible to reimagine the case support model, including using FaceTime and other non-HIPAA compliant tools when issues arise.

    Fenske: How are device companies pivoting to accommodate the fact reps are not able to provide as much on-site knowledge for medical devices due to COVID restrictions?

    Fried: Device companies are embracing new technology to allow their experts to provide guidance virtually. They are revisiting how they train both reps and providers to ensure higher consistency of device utilization, reinventing the training continuum for reps and healthcare providers.

    Fenske: What technologies are being used to encourage more effective communication and collaboration in the OR?

    Fried: Tools like ExplORer Surgical have the ability to connect other support members to cases remotely. While some solutions only provide video conferencing, ExplORer is the only full-solution company in the market that offers a best practice digital playbook with two-way audio/video communication to any OR anywhere in the world.

    Fenske: Has the industry easily adapted to remote support?

    Fried: Change is difficult for everyone. The nature of physician and industry relationships has mainly been in person, and the OR and procedure suites are perhaps the slowest to adopt new technology due to the intensive nature of care. However, technology has become more broadly accepted in every part of life in the past several months and we expect that to continue to apply to surgery.

    Fenske: What are the worries that have been reported regarding field training and live case proctoring?

    Fried: It can be a challenge to adequately train reps because there is a limited number of observable cases due to travel and hospital access restrictions. Other challenges include getting proctors to cases to train new physicians and nuances of training people on a complex device without having enough hands-on training.

    Fenske: What trends that have developed in case support do you see sticking around long past the end of the pandemic?

    Fried: Hybrid models are here to stay. Connected solutions will allow medical device professionals, both inside and outside the sales organization, to view and support cases remotely. In addition, procedures will continue to shift to less-expensive care settings, such as ambulatory surgery centers and in-office.

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