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Data drives transformation, even under the knife

I guess you and I are probably very much alike in one sense. If I ever needed to have surgery, I would want to know that my surgeon was doing the best they could to save my life, avoiding any danger during the operation. Once anaesthetized, you might not have much to add to the situation. You need to feel comfortable that they are doing their best, don’t you?

Haptic feedback glove being used with medical torso demo at King's College London

Of course being a surgeon involves practice, practice, practice. The more you do it, the better you become. But even the most skillful surgeon might look back and think of what they could have done better. Building on the memory of a situation might not be the best idea; a crucial detail might be missed. But what if you could collect all data and analyze it?

Unlocking the value of data

In 2013, Teodor Grantcharov at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto started to record everything that took place in his operation room. The goal of this trial was for the team to learn from whatever happened in that room. Sensor data from all machines involved was recorded, including video and audio. They didn’t want to play the blame game – the purpose of the exercise was to learn from situations to become more skilled. Think of it as the “operation room black box” that records all aspects of an operation.

This technology will now also be deployed in one of the hospitals in Stockholm: Karolinska. The trial in Toronto showed that the post-operation problems were halved, so I understand why Karolinska wants to do the same.

Improving healthcare with ICT

At Ericsson we have also been exploring how to further improve healthcare. In Tuscany in Italy we have started to explore what our technology can bring to this area. A surgeon might be able to get immediate support inside the operating room, getting other surgeons to comment and provide support in a situation new to them.

We are also exploring what the extreme low latency can do to support remote surgery over 5G in a project run together with King’s College London. Combining 5G network infrastructure and the world’s most advanced surgical robotics, the team at King’s College London has enabled the remote transfer of haptic, tactile, audio and visual technologies. A surgeon or doctor might in the future be able to perform a diagnosis or even surgery on a patient anywhere in the world.

But the paradox is that while improved healthcare helps people live longer, healthcare systems come under increasing pressure as older patients need more care. Scarce resources are forcing the industry to become more and more dependent on automation, remote treatment and artificial intelligence (AI). AI systems have the potential to provide physicians and researchers with relevant, real-time information from centralized data repositories. Forty-four percent of cross-industry decision makers feel that insights based on analysis of such complex data will speed up diagnosis.

Now imagine what happens when that “operation room black box” I mentioned above benefits from all of the projects outlined above… Instead of the surgical team looking through the recorded procedure after it’s complete, it would be a connected experience, where all the knowledge collected, with help of AI, would support the surgeon during the operation. I for one would feel much safer lying in front of the team before the anesthetic kicks in.

For more insights on healthcare read our ConsumerLab report From healthcare to homecare.

Learn more about our collaboration with King’s College London.

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In a world that is increasingly complex, we are on a quest for easy. At the Ericsson blog, we provide insight, news and opinion to help make complex ideas on technology, business and innovation simple. If you want to hear from us directly, please head over to our contact page.

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