The future of healthcare is changing for the better with novel medical technologies emerging at a record pace. One such technology developed by a UBC startup in recent years has made remarkable strides in bridging the gap between research and commercialization. UBC’s Institute for Computing, Information, and Cognitive Systems (ICICS) and entrepreneurship @UBC (e @UBC) helped make it happen.
Budding entrepreneurs approaching e @UBC for mentoring advice soon learn that “market discovery” is all-important. They may have a great idea and early adopters for a product, but success will elude them if they do not uncover and address unmet needs in the market. NZ Technologies (NZTech) Founder and CEO, Dr. Nima Ziraknejad, learned this lesson quickly when he embarked on an entrepreneurial path after completing his PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering at UBC. With a newly minted company and lab space provided by ICICS, Nima became an industry supporter of an ICICS multidisciplinary smart home research project in a theme that focused on applications of his machine vision, robotics, and learning algorithm expertise. This experience together with his background in the mining, oil and gas, and automotive sectors raised his profile sufficiently to attract the attention in 2013 of Dr. Behrang Homayoon, who was then doing his residency in interventional radiology at Vancouver General and UBC Hospitals. Dr. Homayoon and his supervisor Dr. David Liu contacted NZTech to see if the company could develop a touchless interface for manipulating radiological images during image-guided operations.
Normally, the physician must leave the operating room (OR) to view images, using a mouse and keyboard, which interrupts their focus and requires them to re-sterilize before returning to the OR. It also prolongs the operation and thus patient recovery times. Uninterrupted surgeon focus is key to successful surgery; to preserve it and avoid leaving the OR, they will sometimes take new radiological images during the operation that essentially duplicate preoperative images. However, this exposes the patient to additional radiation, which has attendant health risks. Finally, the need to re-scrub before re-entering the theatre also increases the cost of consumables, such as gloves, gowns, masks, and head coverings.
Nima was quick to pivot and tackle this end-user driven challenge. Collaborating with the clinical team, NZTech developed TIPSO™(Touchless Interaction with Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) in Sterile Operations), which allows practitioners to touchlessly interact with radiological images in the OR, by projecting the necessary image manipulation controls onto the surgical drape. The practitioner hovers his/her finger over the projected icons to control the images in an intuitive and ergonomically friendly manner, while remaining at the surgical bedside.