Exclusive with Precision OS, An Orthopedic Surgery VR Company
Precision OS is a provider of virtual reality (VR) orthopedic surgical education and pre-operative planning software based in Vancouver, Canada. This software allows for surgeons and trainees to practice simulated medical procedures by providing an immersive and realistic form of deliberate surgical practice that offers critical surgical metrics with haptic feedback.
Very recently, the company secured $2.3 million in Series A funding that was led by Swiss investment fund AO Invest, and several other undisclosed investors. Precision OS has been nominated for the Technology Impact Awards, was a semi-finalist at the Orthopedic Research Society, and has been recognized by leading organizations in orthopedic education and competency.
The company was co-founded by game and software professionals Colin O’Connor (CTO) and Roberto Oliveira (CCO), and by practicing orthopedic surgeon Dr. Danny P. Goel (CEO). Dr. Goel is a consultant shoulder surgeon and clinical associate professor at the University of British Columbia, Department of Orthopedic Surgery. We are excited to feature an exclusive interview with Dr. Goel.
Alice Ferng, Medgadget: Thank you for joining us for an interview! Can you please tell me about your background and what motivated you to go into medicine/ortho surgery?
Dr. Danny Goel, CEO of Precision OS: I’m originally from Winnipeg (a city in Manitoba, Canada) where I grew up in a household of 4 siblings. We all worked in my dad’s furniture business and had odd jobs during the summer. Painting houses, delivering furniture, newspapers or at the local grocery store. We were taught the value of responsibility and hard work in our formative years. My siblings and I held many jobs, had to relate to people and learned several different skills while in high school and university.
A part of me always wanted to go into medicine mostly because I was intrigued by the unknown. It really became solidified for me when I began my Masters in Science degree. I was working with cardiac cells and manipulating them with omega fatty acids and noticed how the physiology could be altered. Once I began applying to medical school, even though it was challenging to get in, persistence paid off and I was accepted. While in medical school, I was fascinated by all the different sub-specialities from pediatrics to psychiatry. My decision was impacted by mentors in the field where decision-based outcomes was really impressed upon me.
Medgadget: What inspired you to found Precision OS?
Dr. Goel: The idea in my mind originally began as an iPhone app. I approached a friend (Rob, a co-founder) about how I thought we could train physicians to make decisions for patients and streamline their care. He introduced me to Colin (our third co-founder) who was diving deep into VR. We combined the technology with the idea and Precision OS was born. This was in March 2017, so we are just over a year and a half into our journey.
Medgadget: Tell me about your team and how PrecisionOS started- did people already know each other?
Dr. Goel: Rob and I have our spouses to thank for us meeting – while at gymnastics with our children, our wives became friends. As Rob and I got to know each other, we discussed his extensive background in game development and I revealed how I enjoyed teaching the residents and fellows surgical skill. We also discussed how accessing health care can be challenging in Canada and ways technology may help improve this. This led Rob to introduce me to Colin. They are both from game development and have known each other for 20 + years. Subsequently, Precision OS was born.
Medgadget: How old is the company, and what partnerships do you have? What types of support and funds have been raised thus far?
Dr. Goel: We officially became incorporated in May 2017. We went through 6 iterations of a prototype to get to our current product. When we finally concluded what we were building and how we were going to create content, the story got very interesting as did the appeal to a larger audience. Since refining our trajectory, we have been able to secure Canadian governmental funding for a preoperative tool we are building, selective angel investors and the largest Orthopedic educational organization in the world, known as the AO. This organization teaches over 800 courses worldwide with one incentive, to improve the quality and delivery of orthopedic surgical care globally. We share this vision and what we bring to the creation of our content. We recently closed a USD $2.3M investment from the AO and undisclosed investors.
Medgadget: Tell me about your technology – are you mainly developing a VR application? Or are there AR components as well?
Dr. Goel: Currently we are creating a hybrid of technologies surrounding VR in Orthopedics. We are linking several areas of relevance together in VR which includes patient specific imaging, anatomical considerations, decision making and artificial intelligence with machine learning. We have discussed AR extensively and it is on the horizon for us. We are working on methods to really add value to the surgeon and will continue to work on this before releasing any specific details about it.
Medgadget: What kind of metrics do you use for the user to know how well they have performed a procedure in VR? What other data is collected and how is it used?
Dr. Goel: Atul Gawande put it very eloquently when he stated that surgery consists of a series of complex, automatic and effortful actions. As a practicing surgeon, I know that the decisions I make to impact the patient outcomes start at our first visit. I attempt to align their expectations with what I can deliver. As an Orthopedic surgeon, I know that optimizing outcomes are a very dynamic process which require several key decision and interpretations along the way. Our metrics take into account the decision-making ability from the start. We record these decision metrics, including cognition, technical skill and ultimately implant position. All of these parameters are delivered to the user in a delayed or an immediate fashion contingent upon their needs. This data is used for quality improvement to enhance the quality of care and their technical proficiency for specific pathologies.
Medgadget: What’s unique about Precision OS compared to other competitors such as Osso VR? Who are your main competitors in the space, and do you have something others don’t have?
Dr. Goel: This is a very new area and all our competitors are providing value in variable ways. Our unique approach and software is based in the principle of deliberate practice. We allow the user to engage in VR with actual patient pathology they would encounter in real life. The OR reflects this experience as does the reason they are operating. We permit and allow the users full degree of movement in our modules (similar to the OR). We allow them to fail, make errors, and learn from their mistakes immediately improving the cognitive aspect of surgery while providing a useful quality improvement feedback loop which is unique to Precision OS and currently not available in simulation models. Given that surgery is a highly integrated and complex phenomenon, and that simulation is defined as an imitation of a process, every part of our modules follows this definition and we are taking every effort to translate this into VR.
Medgadget: As a practicing surgeon, how difficult do you find it to be to continue to practice while running a company? What does a typical week look like? How many days/hours a week do you get to operate, and how many do you have to spend on the company?
Dr. Goel: For me, this company is an extension of what I do on a regular basis as an Orthopedic Surgeon. Evaluating patients, deciding on the care pathways and teaching the residents or fellow, is directly relevant to Precision OS. This is also a “we” company and not an “I” company. Company co-founders Rob and Colin bring the same intensity and support to help the company function at peak performance. My typical week consists of surgery 1-2 times per week, a half day clinic and several full days at the VR office. This varies depending on my travel as I still enjoy teaching at Orthopedic Courses, examining for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons and attend and give talks about virtual reality or some other unique shoulder procedures. In addition to this, I’m also concurrently pursing my MBA through the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. This degree is specifically geared and focused on healthcare so the applicability, discussions on personal growth and strategy are intimately related. Being involved in the innovative side and learning how it can penetrate the industry are skills which are invaluable to me as a surgeon and now as an entrepreneur. All thoughts flow to one common end point, the patient outcomes and how to translate this into VR for immediate use and impact.
Lastly and importantly, this is more than just a VR company for us at Precision. We feel an intense element of social responsibility to our users and to the patients who will benefit. The impacts could be felt globally for the current and future generations. Virtual reality is a powerful medium that has significant potential in the real world for real people.