The future will embrace new applications with interoperability and data insights as the focus that will benefit patient outcomes. (Credit: ZinetroN/AdobeStock)

Medical technology is nearing the brink of a large-scale disruption. Attitudes are shifting, and there is a renewed focus on interoperability and data. Throughout 2023, I’m excited to see clinical influencers increasingly engaged to apply their expertise to clinical product development. Companies will be tapping these experts for insight into developing new technologies. We’ll also see legacy technologies begin to evolve with advancement in surgical navigation. The medical technology industry is ripe for disruption, and we can expect to see a shift away from legacy technologies and to see new navigational tools enter the marketplace as we step into the future.

Designing New Technologies with Interoperability as the Focus

Across the patient care continuum, there are quantities of valuable and dense pockets of data generated every minute. In fact, a conversation I had just last week with a clinical influencer who says, “Everything is a data point,” and they are absolutely right. The future of healthcare will develop technologies that utilize this data with interoperability as the focus. By understanding and applying patient and clinical data, it will unlock new insights and extract value from operational data that we have yet to see in healthcare. Throughout 2023, we can expect to see increased interest in developing systems and technology that is capable of extracting electronic health data across multiple systems, linking that data to common standards and finally providing that data intelligently to point of care at the appropriate time.

Clinical Influencers Take Center Stage in Product Development

Due to the complexity of medical technology, it is important to collaborate with clinicians who understand the intent and purpose of a product’s application and purpose. Because of this, we can expect to see surgeons acting as clinical influencers who will have an increasingly greater role in product development. There are two factors driving this, the first being that surgeons are becoming increasingly entrepreneurial in their endeavors, meaning that they have other clinical-related opportunities outside of treating patients. This could mean that they’re independently involved in medical product development, they’re opening their own practices, or they’re consulting with a device manufacturer. The second reason is that medical technology companies have a symbiotic relationship with surgeons where they rely on one another.

The companies bring forward technology that can help surgeons, but these companies need their input, involvement and influence in identifying clinical problems that need to be solved and shaped by technology. Medical technology companies understand the immense value and personal experience that surgeons have when it comes to using technology products in a clinical environment and what types of advancement might be necessary to advance the device or tool. They are using technology to influence or help drive their opinions into the marketplace. Because we’re using technology to drive decision making in the surgical field, we can expect to see the future of medical technology development to lean heavily on clinicians who understand the complicated dynamics and needs of patients, providers, and health systems along with regulatory and reimbursement hurdles.

Modalities Are Ripe for Disruption, Especially in Imaging and Surgical Navigation

As an example, most of the underlying spinal surgery navigation technology that our industry relies on hasn’t been updated in a meaningful way since it came into use over 20 years ago, and the same goes for CT scans and x-rays. In 2023, would you rely on printed driving directions from MapQuest and drive straight into a traffic jam when Google Maps and Waze will suggest you take an alternate route? This is analogous to what is happening in surgical navigation, where surgeons must conduct time-consuming CT-scans during spine surgery to ensure that proper vertebral alignment is being achieved.

By making the right information available to a spine surgeon during a spinal fusion procedure at the right time during the first surgery, it might help them to only fix a minor deformity, rather than creating a new deformity that could potentially result in a patient undergoing a second surgery. It’s time for a future where engineers, product developers and clinical influencers apply their unique understanding of the surgical and technological landscape to create new applications with interoperability and data insights as the focus that will benefit patient outcomes.

Conclusion

The foundational goals of surgical precision and ideal patient outcomes will always be the same — but it’s time for the technology that we use to develop richer insights and advance modalities into the future. There has never been a better time for disruptive, innovative companies to bring solutions into the spinal medical technology space. I’m confident that the future of precision surgery includes new, innovative technology that features real time feedback and data rich interoperability. Because without it, the industry is simply reliant on outdated technologies.

The bottom line is this: We need innovations that can locate anatomy, register the location, direct implant navigation, and provide efficient updates without disrupting the workflow and exposing the patient to more radiation. Can you imagine a future of printing paper MapQuest directions to get where you’re going, or will you be reaching your destination with Waze or another intuitive driving app? The future of surgery and positive patient outcomes depends on it.

This article was written by Tommy Carls, Vice President of Product Management and Marketing at Proprio, Seattle, WA. Contact: For more information, visit here .