Karl Storz unveils OR1 integrated operating room

Karl Storz unveils OR1 integrated operating room‘Sneaker net’ replaced by PC-based systemMany old school medical imaging and equipment firms are working to establish a presence in the nascent e-health marketplace through the

Karl Storz unveils OR1 integrated operating room

‘Sneaker net’ replaced by PC-based system

Many old school medical imaging and equipment firms are working to establish a presence in the nascent e-health marketplace through the addition of software, Internet, and services capabilities. In most of these cases, the focus is on using Web-based technologies to make critical information available to healthcare providers at the point of care.

But referring physicians aren’t the only ones who can benefit from real-time access to electronic patient data and images. Using a new integrated suite of data acquisition, monitoring, and visualization devices, Karl Storz Endoscopy is bringing real-time access to clinical data into the operating room with its first IT-based product, the OR1. The privately held firm, headquartered in Tuttlingen, Germany, is well known in the field of minimally invasive surgery (MIS) for its surgical devices and endoscopes; the company developed OR1 as part of a broad strategy designed to both expand its product offerings and meet the need for improved MIS technologies. The product gained FDA clearance late last year and is initially being marketed in the U.S.

According to Steve Martin, director of product marketing, Karl Storz conceived the idea for OR1 about eight years ago, but the project was tabled until two years ago when the technology to make the system a reality became mature enough to handle the demands of the operating theater. This coincided with the increasing use of MIS procedures, which impose their own equipment and ergonomic needs.

“It is critical for communication to be flawless,” said Dr. Carlos Gracia of ValleyCare Hospital in Pleasanton, CA, site of the first OR1 installation, which went live in early June. “Surgeons want to control what’s happening. The ability to access information from other parts of the hospital without sending someone to physically retrieve it improves patient care.”

The OR1 runs on Windows NT and uses Sony high-resolution monitors with touchscreens to access data and to perform functions like controlling the lighting in the OR and video-conferencing. The system will integrate with existing hospital systems, not only clinical and laboratory information systems, but also PACS, e-mail, dictation systems, and phone systems. Macros enable the system to “remember” a user’s preferences, so that over time the system becomes tailored to each surgeon’s needs and processes. In addition, because OR1 is modular and nonproprietary by design, upgrades are simply a matter of updating the software. The system uses open architecture to facilitate integration with existing and next-generation hospital systems.

“We bring in information from disparate systems,” said John Davis, OR1 marketing manager. “We’re not interested so much in developing software, but in linking to the hospital’s systems and giving the surgical staff access to information available. Our people write the source code to integrate with other products.”

In addition to making critical information available in the OR in near-real-time, the system can be used for real-time video consultations and teaching over both local and wide area networks.

However, setting up OR1 is not as simple as setting up PCs on Windows NT or wheeling equipment into an operating room. The process requires coordinating the IT staff, the chief of surgery, and facilities planners and engineers to make sure that all the pieces are in place. Once plans are final, the actual installation takes about eight weeks.

Karl Storz plans to add voice activation capability and is in talks with wireless companies regarding infrared technology. The firm is testing voice activation, so that voice commands can perform tasks like changing light settings, turning on the VCR, and accessing the phone system; however, it has not yet submitted the product to the FDA for approval. Once approved, the capability can be added to installed systems via a software upgrade. The firm is also in talks with third-party vendors like Valley Labs to create more sophisticated interfaces with electrosurgical equipment.

The hook for purchasing OR1 is not just its price (the basic system costs $100,000 and the full system around $500,000), but also its ability to keep the real rainmakers, the surgeons, happy. Streamlining the operating procedure means that a hospital can schedule more operations and thus increase its revenue. Gracia estimates that the OR1 pays for itself with 35 additional cases per year.

OR1 is not the first high-tech operating suite out of the gate. Its competitors include the Endosuite from Stryker, which claims over 350 rooms installed, and the EndoALPHA from Olympus. However, according to Gracia, these other products control only the devices, not the entire environment.