The daring robotic surgery that saved a man’s life

by The Insights

The success of this operation encouraged Hachach-Haram to transform his research project into a real business. She raised funds, hired a team to develop the technology, and spent the next two years tirelessly proselytizing at digital operating room conferences. “I would steal 10 hours just to give a 10 minute talk,” she says. In 2019, Proximie was ready for its commercial launch.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK a year later, Proximie had already been used in 1,200 surgeries in over 30 countries. “Like all companies during the first weeks of the pandemic, we announced to our shareholders that we were going to prioritize our mental well-being and simply try to survive,” says Hachach-Haram. A week later, she changed her mind. “I realized, wait a minute, that’s exactly when people are going to need our technology,” she says. She called another shareholder meeting and announced, “Abandon the previous plan. We will speed up. In six months, the number of users has increased tenfold and the number of surgical sessions has increased to 5,500. Today, more than 20% of NHS hospitals have access to the software. “Before, we were just a sci-fi concept with some potential,” she says. “Suddenly we were the only way to do things.”

Because of suspension of routine operations during the pandemic, Hachach-Haram went several months without performing a single operation. “When we resumed our activities, our confidence was shaken,” says Hachach-Haram. “We had to get over it, so we were going to partner up and ask a colleague to help us through this, because we needed that support.

When it was not possible to have another consultant physically present, many have used Proximie for remote support. While the loss of skills and confidence during the pandemic was a concern for senior surgeons, the problem was even more pronounced for their junior colleagues: according to official data, NHS trainees saw a 50% reduction in training opportunities to operate. “Many trainees in their prime have missed 18 months of practice,” she says. “We don’t have the luxury of taking 10 years to train people. We had to think about how Proximie could speed this up. »

The Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, for example, sent anatomically realistic porcine tissue models to interns working from home, so they could perform abdominal wall hernia repairs while being assisted remotely by medical professionals. experts. The Hip Preservation Society, on the other hand, ran a regular virtual education program that included live surgery – a labral reconstruction procedure, for example, was streamed to more than 500 people worldwide. . “Historically, only a few trainees would have access to a procedure,” she says. “Now hundreds of people could have access to the few cases that were happening.”

Currently, over 95% of surgical sessions using Proximie are also recorded on its online library, allowing surgeons to edit and tag footage which can then be used for training or debriefing. This library currently stores over 20,000 videos of surgeries, making it the largest database of its kind. “When we started, we only had the live surgery feature in mind,” she says. “But then we thought, what if people wanted to have post-op feedback or review their performance? That’s why we built the library. When she first watched footage of her own operations , Harach-Haram learned, for example, that her behavior was, as she describes it, “a bit pushy. “I noticed that I liked to do the operations myself, even when there were trainees around. in the room,” she says. Now, in similar situations, she forces herself to hand over the surgical instruments, deliberately clasps her hands close to her chest, and walks away from the operating table. “I learned to not being in their space,” she says. “I just give them the room.”

This article appears in the July/August 2023 issue of WIRED UK magazine.

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