Neosper: Supporting orthopaedic surgeons through the use of revolutionary technology
Supporting orthopaedic surgeons, Imane Chaabane, entrepreneurial graduate from Université Paris-Saclay and co-founder of Neosper, speak with Healthcare Global
1. What is Neosper?
Neosper is a young team which aims to bring artificial intelligence and augmented reality into surgical practices to improve them. By going out “into the field”, Neosper is very close to the market needs, to the users and their practices. We don’t have a techno-push policy, instead, we develop our solutions in correlation with the issues that come to us. Neosper is not a disruptive startup. Neosper does not want mark a break in surgical practices. Neosper incorporates its innovations into existing usages to be spontaneously and smoothly adopted by practitioners.
2. What led to the launch of Neosper?
Our entrepreneurial journey began when we still were two students in the “Institut d’Optique Graduate School”, an engineering school that’s part of Université Paris-Saclay. My colleague Thomas Ladhuie and I followed an entrepreneurship program in this school. It was there that we discovered our interest in this adventure and our willing to work together. One day, during an internship in a health clinic, my colleague met our partners; two orthopedic surgeons specializing in upper limbs, Dr Julien Deranlot and Dr Jean-David Werthel. They had a problem; they could not find a reliable and fast tool to improve their surgical gestures to better treat their patients. So we started to work together to develop a solution to that problem. Neosper was born from the association of two orthopedic surgeons, two photonic engineers and our combined willing to improve healing and help patients recover towards a better way of life.
3. How does the business seek to support surgeons?
Orthopedic surgeons’ mission is to restore their patients’ mobility as much as possible to make their life normal again. In Europe, hundreds of thousands need that kind of intervention. Surgeons have to reflect upon all those different cases. They need to be fast, precise and efficient.
Many solutions are available to help orthopedic surgeons to achieve their mission. They have access to medical imaging systems, 3D printed aids for positioning, infrared navigation systems, 2D and 3D planning software, and much more. These options are very effective for elbow and knee surgeries. Yet shoulder prostheses are more and more used to improve patient’s mobility, and for more complex and deeper articulations like shoulders, surgeons need more compact and accurate devices. To this end, Neosper provides a continuous preoperative and intraoperative assistance through surgery planning software and navigation device.
4. The healthcare industry is undergoing a significant shift – could you discuss this from your point of view?
The healthcare industry has always adapted to the society’s changing lifestyle. We are living longer and we need to live better during that extra time. Moreover, new technologies are everywhere in our daily life, and in the healthcare industry. These technologies optimize our communication, our transportation, and our everyday tasks. The healthcare industry is ready for this optimization. Myopia, or nearsightedness, can be healed by lasers and robots assist surgeons during neurosurgeries. Devices like these help surgeons to optimize their movements by giving them the most relevant information.
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We are witnessing a new technological pivot: artificial intelligence and augmented reality are becoming mature and reliable enough to be welcomed by the healthcare industry. Intelligent diagnostic software has already been developed, prostheses are 3D-printed, and surgeons are being trained via virtual reality platforms.
Nevertheless, more improvements are needed. How could it be possible that amazing evolutions are more used in the automotive than healthcare industry? Mechanics have more advanced tools to repair our cars than surgeons to heal ourselves. As a conclusion, we have all the tools to improve our medical equipment, so let’s do it!
5. What technology is involved?
The point of our product is to give surgeons the most relevant information to help them make the best decisions for their patients. Surgeons need this help during the operation as well as before it. They have the knowledge to handle the information, but they don’t have time to collect this themselves. What we want to give them is a way to grab this information without wasting their time.
To build the software we interviewed more than 50 surgeons to better know their needs and to give them a tool totally adapted to their environment. We wanted to make sure that it made the best use of their time in order for them to be better prepared in the operating room. Automatization is the key-word. Surgeons don’t want to go through several complex steps of configuration before beginning their real work. So, we developed an intelligent central core to process the CT-scan images they are used to working on, and to make it user-friendly we work with them directly to build the software interface. To this end, we regularly make them try it, test it and their feedback leads to improved successive versions. We also collaborate with technical experts to compose the optimal digital experience.
6. How will augmented reality and AI technology transform traditional healthcare and surgical processes?
Without augmented reality, practitioners have to choose to concentrate their attention either on the patient or the CT-scan images. So while they are operating on their patient, they glance at the information and thus lack focus on both. Thanks to augmented reality, they can focus on both all at once and adjust their hand movements accordingly. This means that the operation is more precise and takes less time.
The role of artificial intelligence is to help practitioners – not to replace them. For instance, before working on the patient in the operating room, there are several repetitive preliminary processes. These steps can be done by computer processing. The result is even more accurate when done by a computer as the machine’s image processing is sharper than a human’s visual acuity. The analytical work, the real surgeon’s added value, is then carried on by the surgeon with the best set of data provided by artificial intelligence.
7. How does the business utilised data analytics?
Almost all of the preparatory work of orthopedic surgeons is based on CT-Scan images. These sets of data contain information which is relatively easy to extract. It largely depends on the quality of the imagery equipment, the patient’s position during the imagery exam, and the complexity of his pathology. Experience and training for programming software to analyze a huge amount of data is the learning base of algorithms used to develop surgery assistance software.
8. What’s next for the business?
For us, and pretty much all the other MedTech companies, the biggest challenge is to survive to the clinical trial phase. You’ve got to be as prepared as possible and anticipate everything to face unexpected obstacles. So our current challenge is to complete this preparation and officially launch Neosper into operating theatres.
Birdie aims to reinvent elderly care with tech
British startup Birdie has announced it has raised £8.2 million to invest in innovation and scale up the business.
The company's announcement is timely as it follows the criticism of the UK government over their lack of a plan for social care, despite acknowledging the sector is in crisis - around a quarter of the UK's home care providers are on the brink of bankruptcy due to a lack of funds and staffing.
Birdie was born with a mission to "radically improve the lives of millions of older adults", by using app-based solutions, IoT and machine learning to put preventative care at the forefront. The company was founded by Max Parmentier, after experiencing his own frustrations with the care system - his grandfather struggled with the impact of life in a care home, but lacked any other option.
In 2017 Parmentier partnered with venture builder Kamet Ventures to set up Birdie, in a bid to fix this problem. Since then, Birdie has partnered with almost 500 providers across the UK, and supports more than 20,000 older people every week. In the past 12 months alone the number of people Birdie supports has got six times greater.
Birdie’s solution is an app to help care providers deliver more coordinated, personalised and preventative care, by giving them access to digital assessments, medication scheduling and planning tools. By using digital tools to take care of admin, staff have more time to spend with their care recipients.
The new investment will be used to fund Birdie’s next phase of growth in the UK, as the company scales to meet the rapidly growing demand of the aging population. The company will also invest in product innovation, creating new features to address customer requests.
In addition, Birdie is piloting new care models, including partnering with the NHS to identify COVID-19 symptoms, building predictive pharmacy models with AI, and helping health authorities to detect early warning signs of patients’ health risks.
Internally, Birdie is committed to having a progressive company ethos. All salaries are transparent, and staff work asynchronously to maximise flexibility and equity. Staff members also volunteer in their local community during office hours, and the company offsets all its emissions.
These efforts have led to numerous awards, including having the best SME culture in the UK, an Honorable Mention in the Health category of Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards, and innovation in care at the LangBuisson awards.
“We believe the future of care for older people should be helping them to live at home for as long as possible through the delivery of personalised and preventative care" Parmentier said.
"Birdie is already the partner of choice for caregivers up and down the UK, and this new funding will help us rapidly increase the number we partner with and what we can offer them - meaning more people benefiting from more affordable, quality care. We’re proud of our mission and the values we embody to pursue it.”