Digital surgeons and the future of the operating room08 Jun 2018
Björn von Siemens did not have to think twice about opening his company in the German capital: “There are three reasons,” he says. “The proximity to top hospitals, the availability of specialists, and the location of Berlin, which allows us to attract these people to us.”
Four years ago, the man with the distinguished name took over the med-tech company S-CAPE GmbH together with his business partner, relocated to Berlin, and unified operations under the brand name caresyntax. The company originated in Reichenbach, Saxony, where engineer Uwe Seidel had founded the company in 1990. To date, caresyntax has digitized more than 6000 hospital operating theaters around the world, and there are currently 99 employees working for the company. The medical technologists are aiming for up to 18 million euros in sales this year.
Ten million interventions with technology from Berlin
Caresyntax is one of around 300 companies in the medical technology sector located in Berlin-Brandenburg. Last year, those companies generated sales of about 1.5 billion euros. More than 13,000 people work for the small and medium-sized enterprises in the region. According to experts, Berlin-Brandenburg is now one of the leading med-tech locations in Europe.
This positive development is owing in part to the environment that many companies find here. “The German capital region has exceptionally good supply, with more than 130 hospitals ” said the Senate Department for Economics. Renowned clinics such as Charité, but also scientific institutions like the Berlin Institute for Health Research, the German Heart Center, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering make Berlin-Brandenburg an “ideal development site for medical technology”. As a result, research and development turns into competitive products very quickly.
The Charité has been using caresyntax® for years
Even Björn von Siemens, whose ancestor founded today’s Siemens Group, has been in and around Berlin’s hospitals and ORs from the very beginning. And there is now even a replica hybrid operating room at the caresyntax HQ in Berlin-Tempelhof.
But to truly see how the digital platform of the Berlin-based firm works, many customers visit Charité – and meet doctors who have been using caresyntax and S-CAPE technologies for years. Siemens and his business partner Dennis Kogan have gone forward and digitized the entire operating room. Their core product and, so to speak, memory-support for the attending surgeons are integrated video monitors and a proprietary control console. Using this integration technology, surgeons can call up all images and relevant data about the patient prior to starting the procedure.
At the same time, the caresyntax system networks all of the medical devices in the operating room, aggregates, and structures the data. As an added bonus, while most competitors of caresyntax network only their own systems with each other, the Berliners have the capacity to network devices from nearly any manufacturer on the market. “Our advantage is that we allow hospitals to buy the best devices and systems, regardless of manufacturer, and we can still provide them with a fully digitized and integrated OR” explains Björn von Siemens. The caresyntax integration platform is therefore particularly in demand: since its launch on the market just four years ago, more than ten million interventions around the world have been facilitated using the caresyntax technology, estimates Siemens.
The road to surgical automation
The med-tech company is still primarily concerned with making it easier for physicians to do their jobs, says the Managing Director. In many ORs, a great deal of time is still spent on managing various disconnected systems. “We’re making it possible for medical professionals to focus more centrally on the patient,” says Björn von Siemens. He estimates that the degree of automation available for surgical teams will continue to increase in the coming years.
In comparison to other industries using advanced technologies to support quality and performance, healthcare still has a long way to go, according to Siemens. An airline pilot, for example, also has hundreds of lives in his hands. However, in the cockpit there are certain systems that make decisions for the pilot, and other systems that support the pilot’s intuition, in so far that the probability of error is extremely low. Siemens also predicts a similar development for the medical industry: “In 30 to 40 years, the operating room will be mainly robotic, and steps of the workflow will be performed either with full automation, or very strongly guided,” says Siemens. Above all, doctors would supervise the process.
New orders in China and Japan
For hospitals, this new technology could potentially save massive cost resulting from surgical errors, readmissions, and re-operations. One caresyntax system – similar to the blackbox of an airplane – indicates to the surgical team if certain patient parameters are out of the normal range during an intervention.
The entrepreneur sees the digitization of medicine as a long-term project: “The industry is very slow, and rightly needs to test new things first,” says Siemens. But when the doctors commit themselves, they do so with conviction: just this month Björn von Siemens announced new orders from both China and Japan. The future Asian business is expected to bring the company around ten million euros within two years.