This startup wants to use Apple Vision Pro to do the most boring parts of surgery

This story is part of us Chief Innovation Officer Predictions Quartz series, business reporting from the front lines of the future.

Earlier this month, a British hospital was First-ever surgery performed with the help of Apple Vision Pro, a $3,500 mixed reality headset.nurses wear Apple’s beautiful goggles Running in the operating room is software developed by a company called eXeX. When you hear about VR headsets being used during surgery, you might think of floating 3D body parts or a display that tells the doctor exactly where to place the scalpel. This is none of eXeX’s business. Instead, the company is building tools for something that may seem more boring, at least at first: helping surgeons stay organized.

“People think surgical health care has to be complex and modern. The reality is that the way we organize it is probably the oldest of all major industries on the planet,” said Robert Masson, MD, a practicing neurosurgeon and CEO of eXeX. “It’s all memories and speculation scribbled on paper. It’s total chaos theory.”

According to Masson, surgical care is stuck in the distant past, with all efforts toward breakthrough treatments but little attention to maintaining the most basic standards of surgical procedures. It’s the little things: eXeX is setting up operating rooms, helping nurses keep track of which tools doctors need and when, and keeping files organized. Streamlining these processes could spark a revolution in healthcare that could make someone a lot of money if they could develop a widely adopted platform.

Outside of surgical procedures, eXeX’s primary products operate on the operating table. But as the surgery continues, headphones may be the ideal tool. We talked with Masson about how tools like Apple Vision Pro are the next big thing in healthcare.

(This interview has been edited for clarity and consistency.)

Gizmos: Can you explain why the surgical environment is so lagging behind in the presentation and organization of information? Healthcare is almost a trillion dollar industry, how could it be so bad?

Robert Mason: If you look at how IT healthcare has evolved, it’s very retrospective; patients come in, we see them, and that’s what happens. This is the electronic health record. It doesn’t get more complicated than that. To me, the future is about predictive analytics, helping you figure out what needs to happen next and the best way to execute it. We focused on putting the coil into the brain aneurysm, putting in the hip prosthesis, and that was the end result of the surgery. But no one really stopped to look at the very boring basic parts of it.

Gizmos: So what exactly does your software do?

RM: Let me give you an example at the equipment level. There are tens of thousands of parts and tools and consumables. Some poor surgical tech had to come in and figure out which piece of the puzzle we needed to put together. The surgeon asked for a drill and the technician said “What drill?” Well, that’s the drill I use every time at this point. But there is no unified process for tracking these details. Now someone has to run down the elevator to get it.

For example, our software can provide a reference guide for holographic forwarding for the stage we are at. If you know what’s coming next, the operation goes downhill, but if you don’t know what the sequence is as a team, it’s inherently chaotic. We are working out the details, but this can increase anxiety, stress and lack of direction.

Gizmos: This is not what you think of when you think of cutting-edge medical technology.

RM: We’re talking about the least glamorous part of the process.

Gizmos: But why do you need headphones?

RM: Well, you certainly don’t need it in every aspect of what we’re doing. It’s simply your organization’s software environment. But with a touch-free system, you can penetrate the sacred bubble of the sterile field. The ability to interact with digital screens, holograms, lists, maps and products unlocks a variety of possibilities. Suddenly, you have an interactive digital tool that you can use without violating the sanctity of sterility.

Now, do I want the traveling nurse in the back of the field to have a nice headset? Definitely not. This person uses an iPad, a computer, or even a cell phone. Our core product is tablet-based. But what we really focus on is the portability and applications required for these different types of environments.

Gizmos: As far as I know, the surgeon himself was not wearing the headphones. Is this the next step?

RM: Honestly, as a surgeon, I wouldn’t even consider it, at least right now. People always tend to say “Look at this amazing technology, let’s screw it up.” Well, we’ve tightened the screws without headphones, so that doesn’t really solve the problem. People tend to think of floating spines, floating heights, you know, an overlay that tells you to place a catheter in the liver. To be honest, none of this is necessary because we already do a good job. What we really don’t do well is staying organized.

Gizmos: I imagine some people will see this as a gimmick, maybe even as a threat. What obstacles did you need to overcome?

RM: The first thing you hear is always that it can cause infection. Yes. Same goes for glasses. Same goes for hair. The same goes for beards. But at the end of the day, it’s new technology and the question is does it work and does it solve the problem? If this is the best application for the position, that’s your answer.

Gizmos: I kind of go back to the beginning of the conversation, but what strikes me is that we’re dealing with some of the most advanced technology on the market. It’s something out of Star Trek, but we’re using it to solve the world’s least sexy problems.

RM: Look, I don’t want to imply that health care sucks. It’s just that no one is paying attention to the basics. It’s kind of shocking how far behind the eight ball we are when you compare it to automotive, defense, aerospace, manufacturing, or, heaven forbid, Amazon, everything is so well organized. Yet health care is rubbish. It’s not something to get excited about, and it’s hard for super experts to go back to the origins of the surgery. But sometimes you do have to step back in order to move forward. Healthcare finally does it.

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