Cognitive Computing in the OR: the Launch of GoSurgery

by Jean Nehme, co-founder at Digital Surgery


The digital revolution

The world’s first electronic computer, dubbed the “Giant Brain” by the press, was announced in 1946. The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), invented by J Presper Eckert and John Mauchly at the University of Pennsylvania, occupied about 1,800 square feet and used about 18,000 vacuum tubes weighing almost 50 tons. It transformed the speed at which we could execute precise calculations, from 2400 human hours to 30 seconds. In essence, it extended our cognitive capabilities.

Fast forward 60 years, Apple announces the iPhone at the January 2007 Macworld Expo. A product of Moore’s law and connectivity, the iPhone scaled computing from an activity previously limited to desktops to one that better synced with the mobility of modern life. It too extended our cognitive capabilities by allowing us to access the world’s information at our fingertips.

Extending human cognitive capabilities through digital technologies has changed the way we live and the way our our societies function. But this transformation has not been mirrored in the operating room (OR).


The digital revolution in surgery

In 1985, the PUMA 560 robotic surgical arm was used in a neurosurgical biopsy (the first instance of what we today call “robotic surgery”). In 1990, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first robotic system for use in endoscopic surgery. In 2000, the da Vinci Surgery System (DVSS) became the first robotic system approved for general laparoscopic surgery. Without a doubt, the DVSS changed the landscape of surgery. It enables surgeons to operate with enhanced precision and control by translating external manipulations into more precise movements inside a patient’s body. Essentially, it extends human technical capabilities by leveraging precision mechanical technologies.

In 2010, we – the folks at Digital Surgery (then known as Touch Surgery) – started brainstorming ideas on how we could help more patients access safe surgery. We had a bold hypothesis: high-quality, patient-centric and cost-effective surgery is driven not merely by more precise mechanical manoeuvres, but also through better decision-making by the surgeon and the OR team. In this sense, the extension of safe surgery relies on the technical AND the cognitive.



In 2013 we began digitizing “surgical routes” – 3D CGI renderings of patient anatomy and surgical workflows, procedure by procedure – as a cognitive training tool. We made these routes widely available to surgeons, healthcare practitioners and patients globally through their smartphones. Today our workflows have been used by over 2.5 million users globally and we have amassed a portfolio of independent, high-quality clinical research validating them as effective simulation and training tools.

Today, we are pleased to be releasing our newest product, GoSurgery, a cognitive tool that takes what we have learned outside of the OR over the past five years, into the OR. GoSurgery supports surgical teams in the delivery of safe surgical care through the use of coordinated workflows that disseminate the right information, to the right team member, at the right time. Our early Beta users have compared what GoSurgery does in the operating room to how a conductor leads a symphony orchestra. A good conductor ensures every musician plays in rhythm, no major sections are skipped, no erroneous notes are played, and the combined symphony produces mellifluous harmony. Similarly, GoSurgery ensures the team performs its tasks in a coordinated manner. It ensures the team is fully aligned, no steps are missed, the correct instrumentation is used, and the best techniques are applied to produce the most beneficial patient outcomes.

Our journey has been 2 years in the making, which we will detail in a separate blog. Today, we are proud to be sharing the news of this new release with our global user base.

In the future, our ambitions are grand. We believe the potential future for ‘cognitive computing’ in the OR is limited only by imagination. Could the technology execute a ‘digital handshake’ with advanced robotic systems? Could the combination of technical and cognitive provide expert level surgical decision-making to every surgical care practitioner in the world? Imagine a future where teams can deliver high-quality and cost-effective surgical care, irrespective of whether they practice at Harvard, Imperial College, Ruijin Hospital, or Groote Schuur Hospital. We would welcome the opportunity to tackle these challenge in partnership with our medical device peers.

Our mission has always been to have a global impact and to transform how care is delivered worldwide and today, we are one step closer. Get in touch to hear about GoSurgery or what we have planned.