Gabe Jones and Sam Browd, co-founders of Proprio, on VatorNews podcast

Propriodeploys machine learning, computer vision, and AR to improve the accuracy of surgery

Steven Loeb and Bambi Francisco Roizen speak with Gabe Jones and Sam Browd, the co-founders of Proprio, a company that deploys machine learning, computer vision, and augmented reality user interfaces to improve the accuracy and efficiency of surgery.

Our overall goal is to understand how technology is radically changing healthcare: the way we screentreat and measure progress and outcomes. How we’re empowering the consumer. Whether we’re creating productivity that drives economic costs down? And how tech advancements change the role of the doctor. 

Highlights from the interview:

  • Browd became when Oculus was starting to come out and he saw the opportunity to use the technology in the operating room. Modern operating rooms are huge but cluttered, with machinery everywhere. Neurosurgery tends to be on the leading edge of trying to adopt and use technology, so they’ll have million dollar microscopes and some systems to help navigate, but data is all over the place. He saw an opportunity incorporate VR to streamline that. 
  • Currently, spinal surgery is very analog, without any tools to specifically tell the surgeon how to align the patient’s spine. The preoperative planning is also manual, with printed out pieces of paper that have X-rays where the surgeon will draw the angle that they want to place a screw at a particular level. People have a misconception that surgery is super technical and driven by technology, but operating rooms are still largely just the surgeon and their experience. Proprio sees an opportunity to transform that experience and bring better information to the surgeon so that those decisions that are being made are better informed.
  • Proprio’s system sits over the operative field with an array of different sensors, including multiple cameras, and a light field, that are looking down, garnering information and then providing that back to the surgeon. There are surgical navigation systems that are in use today but they don’t account for any movement of the patient, or if any of the reference frames moves, which makes the data inaccurate. Proprio is actually mapping and tracking the anatomy in real-time, continuously, so it understands exactly where the anatomy is. 
  • Orthopedic surgeons have a seven to 10x more likelihood of getting cancer because of radiation exposure. Proprio can reduce the need for intraoperative, radiation-based imaging, which is good for everyone: the patient, the provider, and the facility. The hospital doesn’t need to buy so many X-ray machines if it can make these kinds of imaging more valuable.
  • Proprio started with spinal surgery because it’s an area where surgeons need to be highly accurate to do the surgery safely. It’s also a huge portion of healthcare, as upwards of one in four people will ultimately be touched by a surgeon in some way related to their back, whether it’s back surgery, or their discs. It was also one of the first areas where robotics has started to come into the operating room to assist the surgeon.

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