Operating rooms and surgical suites could soon see data-informed improvements following the October launch of Omnimed SmartOR, a collaborative effort between California-based Axis Research and Technologies and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel.

Consisting of a customized network of modular, data-driven technologies that sense, observe and understand the complex activities of the surgical environment, SmartOR uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to mitigate risk, improve practices and create efficiencies.

“Omnimed is committed to saving lives,” said Nick Moran, founder and CEO of Axis. “SmartOR brings intelligence into today’s data-rich operating room, empowering surgical teams, chief medical officers, and hospital administrators to make informed decisions that increase efficiencies and improve patient outcomes.”

To evolve the modern surgical suite, Omnimed collaborated with APL, Maya HTT, and The BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence and Innovation and BDO Digital.

The technology is already available at Axis RT’s bioskills laboratory in Columbia Gateway and will eventually begin finding its way into hospitals throughout the United States.

According to Moran, the SmartOR system captures millions of data points. Using pose detection, sterile zone tracking, drop detection, heat mapping and other capabilities, it can monitor all activities, procedures and equipment occurring in the surgical suite.

“The future of health care is real-time data,” explained Steven Shill, partner and national leader of The BDO Center for Healthcare Excellence and Innovation, adding that the objective of the collaboration was to help clients meet evolving industry challenges.

Applications for the new system are expected to extend beyond the thousands of operating rooms and surgical suites across the U.S. and into areas such as research and development, training, education, and military usage.

“Creating improvements in health care through the application of effective, advanced technology is a challenge that (APL) has been focused on for decades,” said Scott Simpkins, a biomedical engineer and project manager in APL’s Intelligent Systems Branch.

Modernized training ground

The vast majority of clients who use Axis RT’s bioskills lab in Columbia, which already has a version of SmartOR, are medical device developers looking to test their products. The setting provided a perfect opportunity to test Omnimed SmartOR because the laboratory was already set up with testing in mind and meets the high standards required by top Fortune 500 company clients such as Edwards Lifesciences and Stryker.

“These clients use our facilities to work do research and development if they’re trying to bring a product to market and get the clearance they need to have third-party validation for FDA approval,” said Jill Goodwin, COO of Axis.

“We provide them with everything they need and we make sure they have the staffing, the equipment, the instrumentation, space, and cadavers,” she said. “Surgeons also do training in our facility as well, particularly if they want to perfect a skill or train their team.”

As for the cadavers, which come from third-party tissue vendors, “I don’t know if the families of donors even realize how grateful we are and how beneficial their donations are to society,” she said. “Their generosity gives our clients the best opportunity to learn and practice.”

Managed risk

One big way that SmartOR is helping to reduce adverse effects that can result from hospital operating room conditions is through its ability to monitor virtually everything that happens in the room.

“We’re collecting data around staffing time and sterilization zones, noting deviations in staff and trends in time,” Moran said. “This includes things like temperature, humidity, air pressure and even air flow from doors and exits. We also use heat and thermal mapping to detect warm spots inside the operating room that could harbor the growth of harmful microbes, helping us to mitigate the possibility of surgical site infection.”

That data can also be used to adjust actions, automate routine tasks, optimize traffic and workflow and reduce labor costs, as well as streamline complex procedures, Goodwin said.

“We’ve been collaborating with APL for five years, and the development of SmartOR is an ongoing process,” said Christian Loversky, national director of technology for Axis RT and Omnimed. “We’re planning to roll out the new [iteration] in Chattanooga, TN, and at all of our other facilities in January.”

Meanwhile, he said, Axis and Omnimed have entered into discussions with hospitals that are interested in acquiring the new technology, but no agreements have yet been finalized.