The future of surgery (FastCompany)

While technology can help to simplify the complex, it is often hard to see those improvements in real-time. Health care is an exception. Anyone can appreciate breakthroughs that may save a life.
From VR that trains doctors in remote locations to 3D printing that creates customized surgical tools on demand, digital advances are making high-quality care and specialized procedures more accessible and effective. With a presence in nearly every operating room around the world, Johnson & Johnson is helping to shape the global surgical landscape. And by expanding its ecosystem of innovative digital tools, J&J is introducing exciting new treatments and education possibilities for surgeons and patients alike.
According to Euan Thomson, global head of R&D for Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies, the key to ensuring such positive outcomes is to remain focused on two targets: patients and procedures. “The variables are patient selection, patient preparedness for surgery, and patient recovery plan after the procedure,” he says. “If we can engage with the patient and find out more about how the physician selected them, how prepared they were for surgery, and also gauge the recovery program after the procedure, we can start putting that information into the same database as the data from the surgical devices; then we’ll start to gain some insight around optimizing outcomes.”


Patient empowerment is a point of emphasis across modern health care. J&J’s answer is Health Partner, a connected health platform with a different tool to address each of the three variables noted by Thomson: a website,, to educate patients before their surgery, a mobile app that guides them through surgical preparation and recovery, and a provider care portal, which is currently in development and being piloted in health systems, that connects them directly to their health care teams.
“We’re using advanced machine learning to provide a personalized experience for patients. As more patients use the platform, our system learns about the best way to serve information and support individuals,” says Jennifer Turgiss, vice president, behavior science and advanced analytics, Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions. “A personalized experience means more relevant guidance, and a higher chance of helping that patient be successful.”

For teams at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center that have engaged their patients with Health Partner, the platform’s care portal has already proven to be a transformative supplement to post-surgical consultation. “The feedback we’re hearing is that it’s a tremendous help in between office visits to get information about how the patient is doing,” Turgiss says. “When the patient comes back in, they have a history of what they’ve been doing over the two or four weeks since a care team saw them last.”


While the issue of patient comfort and compliance is one that receives plenty of attention in the medical community, what is less openly discussed is the performance of surgeons themselves. When the Johnson & Johnson Institute began offering the personalized performance management platform C-SATS in April 2018, it took a tremendous step towards making technical surgeon-to-surgeon feedback commonplace.
Created by a team of surgeons, biostatisticians, and engineers, C-SATS allows expert surgeons and trained reviewers to provide anonymous feedback to one another via shared video recordings of their procedures. It’s quite remarkable to think a system like C-SATS that provides oversight to a group of such highly trained professionals has been accepted by thousands of surgeons at leading institutions,” says C-SATS Co-Founder and VP of Performance Improvement at J&J Institute, Derek Streat.  “Once they start getting structured, comparative feedback about how they’re performing, something that typically ends once surgeons leave residency, they are empowered with specific, tangible insights to improve their skill, irrespective of their experience level.  Professionals striving for excellence in any field know that learning never stops.”
“Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies’ digital ecosystem extends to surgeons and nurses learning the ins and outs of new procedures using one of today’s most talked-about technologies: virtual reality. While traditional surgical training can present a heavy burden of time, travel and setup, J&J’s immersive simulations significantly lower these barriers, allowing clinicians to train at their own pace.
“If you think about the learning journey surgeons have to go on, normally they would have gone into a cadaver lab with their attending surgeons [before heading] into a surgery environment,” says Sandra Humbles, vice president, global education solutions, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies. “We decided to help accelerate that learning curve [with VR].”
Surgeons who have had the opportunity to use the VR training technology have responded positively: A 2017 survey of orthopedic surgeons found that 80% wanted to use it frequently in their training, and 90% would recommend it to their colleagues. As with all of its digital health platforms and products, Johnson & Johnson’s scale as a global leader helps its VR training program make an immediate impact: To date, the technology is in use in Johnson & Johnson Institute facilities in the U.S., Brazil, China, Japan, Germany and Switzerland.
As Johnson & Johnson continues to expand its digital medical devices digital surgery solutions, its blend of size, purpose and legacy of groundbreaking innovations opens up unprecedented avenues for progress. “When I think about our opportunity to create platforms, it comes down to the scale of what we can achieve as an organization with the direct coverage that we have,” Euan Thomson says. “It gives us a singular opportunity to leverage advanced technologies, amalgamate data, and generate insight. It really is unique to J&J to have that opportunity.”

This article was created for and commissioned by Johnson & Johnson.