The Silicon Review
Despite the growing concerns about robots possibly taking over our jobs, collaborative robots (cobots) are made to work alongside professionals rather than replacing them. Cobots are helping professionals to build workflows that can incorporate the strengths of both robots and humans. Generally, traditional robots are seen as a threat to human safety, but that’s not the case with cobots. Extensive improvements in sensor and vision technology have made cobots smarter, less expensive, and easily programmable. Immense potential for repeatable safety measures, efficient workforce, and streamlined processes have convinced healthcare workers to accept the future of collaborative robotics. This particular segment in healthcare innovation is continuing to meet the demands of the healthcare industries and medical devices — providing positive patient outcomes and high success rates. Globally, there are various innovators working diligently to create a powerful platform for assisting healthcare providers, but one that stands out from the rest is Activ Surgical.
Activ Surgical is powering the future of surgery. It has performed the world’s first autonomous robotic surgery of soft tissue and is building hardware-agnostic surgical software that allows surgical systems to collaborate with surgeons. The company’s patent-protected surgical software platform reduces unintended and preventable surgical complications by enhancing a surgeon’s intra-operative decision making. Activ Surgical’s goal is to democratize surgical care, extending insights from experienced surgeons to all surgical systems and ensuring world-class surgical care for all, regardless of location. Activ Surgical empowers surgeons by visually mapping the surgical field to see currently unseen critical structures and functions. The company was founded in 2017, and it is based in Boston, Massachusetts.
In conversation with Todd Usen, CEO of Activ Surgical
Q. Tell us in brief about collaborative surgery and how do they contribute to the healthcare industry?
We envision a future of collaborative surgery, with surgical intelligence empowering scopes and robots to see what humans cannot see. Human judgment and wisdom are augmented by robotic precision and the power of insights derived from some of the world’s top surgeons using artificial intelligence and machine learning. We are aiding surgeons through our platform by providing critical real-time intelligence and visualization to improve patient outcomes, reduce preventable surgical errors and complications, and create significant overall savings to healthcare systems. Behind heart disease and cancer, preventable medical errors are currently the third leading cause of death. Of these deaths, surgical errors account for almost 26% of these errors. That number is estimated to cost the healthcare system over $36 billion globally. Not only are there massive cost savings to be had, but more importantly, there are lives that can be saved with our collaborative technology.
Q. Surgical robots need sophisticated operation, maintenance, and programming. How do you retool the existing staff?
Our goal is to deliver technology that will not require additional or incremental training or installation work for surgeons so they remain focused on patient care and treatment. This means our innovations must work with existing surgical technologies to enhance or improve them and be intuitive and easy to use. ActivSight, for instance, works dynamically and seamlessly with any installed visualization system to provide real-time intraoperative visual data and images not currently available to surgeons through existing technologies. Our patent-protected surgical software is hardware-agnostic, enabling existing surgical systems (laparoscopes, arthroscopes, and robots) to visualize, characterize, and track tissue and critical anatomical structures in real-time, far beyond human vision. Ease of use and minimal training will be imperative to mass adoption of the ActivEdge platform in operating rooms around the world, and we are designing our products as such.
Q. Tell us in brief about the safety measures used in your equipment.
Patient safety is our number one priority at Activ Surgical. With this in mind, we are in the process of conducting a series of trials using our ActivSight visualization module (and our forthcoming products) with leading surgeons across the global to ensure feasibility and safety. We are also working closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory bodies as we commercialize ActivSight in 2021, and our other products down the road.
Q. Surgical robots can do many things better than people can. They’re stronger, faster, and more efficient than human workers. Can they completely replace the need for healthcare workers in hospitals?
It is our belief that it is impossible to replace human wisdom and judgment in the operating room. Our technology works best when it combines the wisdom and judgment of humans with the strength, endurance, and precision of machines. It is not our goal to replace healthcare workers in the operating room but to augment what they can see through advanced visualization tools. It will be critical that humans remain in the feedback loop for the ActivEdge platform to be successful in improving patient outcomes and safety.
Q. What does the future hold for Activ Surgical and its customers? Are exciting things on the way?
Everyone at Activ Surgical is hard at work on the commercialization of our first product from the ActivEdge platform—ActivSight. We already have nine hospital systems across the U.S. and 5 European systems on board to conduct trials and have completed over 20 initial in-human feasibility studies, with more on the way. We have completed our FDA submission and expect ActivSight to be commercially available later in 2021. From there, we will focus on furthering the development of our second product, called ActivInsight, which will transform massive amounts of unique and proprietary surgical data into intelligent, real-time guidance for surgeons. ActivInsight is currently in development with the goal of commercialization for late 2022.
Meet the leader behind the success of Active Surgical
Todd Usen is the CEO of Active Surgical. He is an accomplished and seasoned leader with more than 30 years of medical device and healthcare experience, and a proven track record for leading, developing and executing on commercialization strategies and driving market development initiatives for profitable growth. He joined Activ Surgical in January 2019 after serving as the President of the Medical Systems Group at Olympus Corporation of the Americas, where he helped lead the group’s expansion from six medical divisions to 11. Prior to joining the Olympus Corporation, Todd held the position of President, Orthopedics, at Smith and Nephew, overseeing the Total Joint, Sports Medicine and Trauma divisions. He held several other vital positions from Smith and Nephew, including Senior Vice President and General Manager, Joint Reconstruction; Senior Vice President, Sports Medicine; and Senior Vice President, Endoscopy. Prior to Smith and Nephew, Todd worked for Boston Scientific as the Vice President of Sales for the Neurovascular division, Director of Endoscopy Sales, and Global Manager of Field Development. He holds a B.S. in Marketing from the University Of Massachusetts Isenberg School Of Business and did his M.B.A. work at Pepperdine University.