ExplORer Surgical Uses Workflows to Make Surgeries More Efficient

Surgeries are complex undertakings, with moving parts that include team members having multiple roles, specific protocols that must be followed, and dozens of tools and instruments that must be accounted for. ExplORer Surgical is a Chicago-based company that hopes to help better organize and manage these moving parts.

ExplORer Surgical works by creating step-by-step “workflows” for each member of the surgical team. In short, explains CEO Jennifer Fried, the platform “is a digital guide designed to lead a surgical team through complex procedures.” The workflows are customized for specific procedures and teams, and they delineate a step-by-step process for every team member, thereby minimizing ambiguities, missed steps, and subsequent mistakes or delays. During a surgery, the scrub technician guides the team by checking off each step in the workflow as it is performed, ensuring that all items are completed by the end of the procedure.

ExplORer Surgical began when Dr. Alex Langerman, a head and neck surgeon who at the time worked at the University of Chicago, recognized various miscommunications and inefficiencies in the operating room. Upon further research, he found that preventable operative inefficiencies were a national problem. Fried, then an MBA student at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, began to collaborate with Dr. Langerman in 2013 to commercialize a solution for the findings. The company was officially formed in 2015, raised a Series A investment in 2017, and now has 20 full-time and part-time employees.

One of the biggest challenges, says Fried, is the relatively slow speed at which hospitals adopt new technology. “In our experience, it takes over a year from an initial meeting to close a deal,” she says. “That can be challenging when you are operating on VC dollars and short timelines.” The platform is being used in both training and actual surgeries, and the company currently focuses on cardiac, orthopedic, and robotic procedures.

In the future, the company also hopes to use the wealth of data generated during surgeries to better understand how certain workflows and surgical steps correlate with patient outcomes. “We’ve developed a dataset that positions us to be the leaders in [operating room] efficiency,” says Fried, and with the data generated, “there is an incredible opportunity to create a dataset around intra-operative activity that can form the basis for safer, more effective surgery.”