Whenever it comes time to invest in new technology at our facility, surgeons are generally divided into two groups: Those who use the latest equipment and devices whenever and wherever they can, and those who are more traditional — both younger and more mature individuals — in their approach to surgery. Both groups are very good at what they do. Both groups have outstanding outcomes. Both groups have legitimate arguments for why we should or shouldn’t invest in the latest tech.
This situation isn’t unique to my facility. Surgical leaders everywhere routinely face this challenge. The ones who manage to get everyone to buy into and embrace emerging technologies do so by demonstrating that there’s a real benefit to adoption — without compromising the integrity of their outcomes or increasing time spent in the OR. There needs to be a value-add to the technology you implement, some tangible benefit gained.
In this issue, you’ll read about a variety of cutting-edge technologies — from virtual reality to handheld ultrasound systems — with the potential to provide value that justifies the expense. It’s up to you to thoroughly evaluate the pros and cons of these systems and devices, and how well they are likely to fit into the workflow of your organization. In doing so, you’ll need to keep in mind that there’s always a learning curve with new technology. However, once you overcome that learning curve, choosing the right technology should drive your complications down and increase your case throughput.
I consider myself a hybrid user of innovative technology and traditional surgical techniques. I perform many open surgeries, but I also plan for procedures with surgical navigation — technology that is vastly different than the systems I first encountered more than two decades ago. In many ways, the navigation technology I’m using in the OR is a lot like the technology I use to drive to work every day. Of course, I know how to get to work, but I still use an app because it lets me know what’s lurking ahead on my route in terms of construction, accidents and traffic.
That’s what a lot of the surgical technology on the market does for providers. Your clinicians know what they’re doing, but by having that extra data available from these platforms, there’s an added level of confidence. The technology we’re seeing now — whether it’s 3D navigation systems, augmented and virtual reality, or robotic platforms — can make surgery safer for patients and providers. However, providers need to avoid falling into the trap of relying so heavily on innovative devices and equipment that they lose sight of the fundamental anatomic relationships and their own knowledge of how things are done without the technology.
As technology evolves, costs are driven down and systems become more accessible, you need to know your surgeons will be able to trust their instincts. In my personal experience, if my gut is telling me one thing and the system is telling me another, I’m going to follow my instincts as a surgeon. I will not put that screw in until I can confirm that the position is accurate. Because this will always be true: Technology is no substitute for the surgical skill, mastery of anatomy and clinical acumen of your surgeons and staff. OSM