J&J subsidiary Ethicon partners with Touch Surgery to offer simulated surgery app

By Heather Mack
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Ethicon, a medical device subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is collaborating with healthcare technology platform developer Touch Surgery to offer professionals a simulated surgical training program in the form of a free mobile app.

The app, which is available on iOS, takes users through a variety of more than 75 simulated surgical procedures. With realistic 3D rendering, the user can cut, stitch, implant and anything else required, with instructions popping up as they go.

The idea is to increase surgical skills globally, especially in areas where access to surgical procedures is poor. For medical students in places even with robust medical schools and training, the app allows for them to get a preview of what a particular surgery will look like before they actually see it in person.

"We're looking to improve the standards of surgical care and treatment around the world, accelerating our pace of innovation and aiding the training of more physicians through collaborations such as this agreement with Touch Surgery," Michael del Prado, company group chairman of Ethicon said in a statement.  "It reflects our broad-based approach to innovation and is another important step toward developing a trusted education ecosystem that improves patient outcomes."

“Learning how to be a surgeon requires both the knowledge and the technical ability. You can learn how to cut, and how to retract and how to suture, but then you also need to learn what that operation, that process involves,” Jean Nehme, CEO and cofounder of Touch Surgery said in a video on the company’s website. “And so, really, with Touch Surgery is giving you is, beyond the ability to cut, a natural cognitive process that tells you where to cut, when to cut, when to retract.”

From knee replacements and carpal tunnel fixes, to open-heart surgery and hand transplants, users can evaluate knowledge and measure their progress as they go, and connect with other physicians around the world who are using the app.

For non-medical folks, this can be a bit jarring, as noted in one of the company’s promotion videos when a non-physician remarks, “I’m actually a bit squeamish, so I’m actually finding looking at this app a bit difficult.”

But for surgeons, the more realistic, the better. Dr. John Paro, a plastic surgeon trainee at Stanford University also featured in the video, pointed to the app as an extra level of preparation that surgeons can’t get elsewhere.

“Going into a surgery that you’ve never seen before, it’s really hard to prepare for that, you can read a textbook, you can try to watch an online video, but it’s really passive learning experience,” Paro said. “Having the phone that you can kind of do anywhere on your free time, actually engaging in the steps of the procedure before you’ve ever seen it in person makes you prepared.”