Touch Surgery: The Uberization of Surgical Education

Touch Surgery has been #winning the medical education game through its groundbreaking platform, which has expanded globally to offer step by step instructions for over 300 surgical procedures spanning 17 specialties. The platform has over 2 million users and has been incorporated into over 160 global surgical residency programs.

“My co-founder Andre and I stepped out of clinical practice for the same reason we joined it — to improve patients’ lives. After years spent in surgical training, studying and honing our craft, we were surprised by the procedural inconsistencies across surgery, the inability to scale best practices, and the limitations on time and access to gain more hands-on learning. We were deeply concerned about the negative impact these issues had on patient outcomes, so we set out to find a better way.” Dr. Jean Nehme, 2013 [1]

The gap in the market

As modern medicine is evolving, taking advantage of the latest technologies available in other industries, so too must the world of medical education. AI, AR, VR, machine learning, telehealth, and simulation have been adopted into day to day healthcare delivery and there is a promising future in access to care as this expands. Until recently, digital technology hadn’t carried over to medical education, and specifically, surgical training.

Medical school education traditionally lacks comprehensive surgical teaching in the OR. This continues into residency as there is competition for finite cases. In addition to this, a surgical resident’s workload consists of calls, rounds, clinics, and if time permits, the OR. This is not conducive to training, nor will it create masters of the scalpel in tomorrow’s health systems.

The Solution

Enter: Touch Surgery. Former UK surgeons and budding doctorpreneurs, Jean Nehme and Andre Chow together with their team of engineers developed a mobile app-based surgical training platform designed to simulate a variety of surgical procedures. Since 2013, Touch Surgery has been winning the medical education game through its groundbreaking platform, which has expanded globally to offer step by step instructions for over 300 surgical procedures spanning 17 specialties. The platform has over 2 million users and has been incorporated into over 160 global surgical residency programs through its Virtual Residency Program that allows program directors the ability to track their residents’ progress, including the most competitive programs at Harvard, Stanford, Mount Sinai, Cleveland Clinic, Oxford, Cambridge, and London. [2]

Touch Surgery’s unique value proposition is to use digital technology to enable surgeons to deliver safe care globally. This is a response to the global burden of unsafe surgical practices and inequalities in surgical education in lower to middle-income countries.

Touch Surgery allows clinical medical students, surgical residents and medical device technicians to practice operative procedures on their smartphones and tablets in order to learn new procedures, test existing knowledge and rehearse for surgery. The dynamic simulation platform replaces dated anatomy and pathology textbooks. While these traditional methods offer key fundamentals for any surgeon, practicing surgery is the only method to achieve mastery, and Touch Surgery offers an environment outside of the OR, where surgeons in training can hone their operative skills.

Touch Surgery has even evolved beyond the remits of a medical education simulation app and incorporated AI algorithms by introducing an in-OR computer which analyses surgical performance and seamlessly integrates with EMR. Touch Surgery’s professional subscription package also allows surgeons to upload videos of difficult procedures, which allows for key opinion leaders from across the world to provide peer-reviewed advice to help surgeons improve their skills.

The success of Touch Surgery is evidenced by its recent partnerships with Microsoft, Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, as well as The Royal College of Surgeons in England, to provide CPD/CME points for surgical residents who struggle to gain sufficient operative experience in a hospital setting. [4] The company continues to push the boundaries of innovation by now implementing virtual reality into its product offering, mimicking the OR environment more than ever before.

 

Business Model and Success

Touch Surgery consists of a freemium business model, charging $84 a month for professional users and subsidized for institutional bulk purchases. The bulk of purchases are made through direct internet sales and advertising through social media and partnership advertising. The company uses a hybrid customer support model. Although Touch Surgery faces competition, its user interface and strong partnerships with key companies set them apart. So far, they have successfully secured 7 investments, the latest of which was for $28.15 million in series A funding in Q3 of 2019. The latest documented post-valuation of Touch Surgery in 2017 was $72.58 million. [3]

Conclusion

As a consumer of this app, I can say first hand, that it has Uberized the medical technology game, and revolutionized surgical education. My confidence and abilities in the OR have shown significant improvement over time, largely thanks to Touch Surgery’s easy to use platform. I am eager to see what Nehme and Chow have planned for the future as they continue to grow while securing partnerships with major stakeholders in healthcare.

References

[1] Medium. (2018, February 19). The dawn of digital surgery. Retrieved from https://medium.com/digital-surgery/the-dawn-of-digital-surgery-fe6655d14162

[2] Touch Surgery. (2020). Touch Surgery. Retrieved from https://www.touchsurgery.com

[3] PitchBook. (2020, January 27). Touch Surgery. Retrieved from https://my-pitchbook-com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/profile/56299-42/company/profile#insights

[4] Cision: PR Newswire. (2019, October 3). Digital Surgery’s Touch Surgery Platform Receives the First-of-its-kind Centre Accreditation to Award CPD Points by the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS). Retrieved from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/digital-surgerys-touch-surgery-platform-receives-the-first-of-its-kind-centre-accreditation-to-award-cpd-points-by-the-royal-college-of-surgeons-of-england-rcs-300930421.html

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1 thought on “Touch Surgery: The Uberization of Surgical Education

  1. Very interesting article and company – thanks for sharing!

    I used to work with a company that built surgical simulators for medical training (https://www.virtamed.com/en/) and am also aware of companies that are applying VR to surgical training (e.g. https://ossovr.com/). Given that surgery is a very 3D tactile practice and phones/tablets are 2D devices, how effective can Touch Surgery’s platform be for skills training? That is, while I appreciate that the interface is problem orders-of-magnitude better than traditional anatomy textbooks and flashcards for studying techniques academically, to what extent can it actually help close the gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it correctly?

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