The London-based medical device maker signed a deal with Avail Medsystems, a startup that’s bringing a high-level telecommunication system to operating rooms and surgery centers.
The Avail system includes a self-standing unit equipped with a camera and microphones to capture the details of a live surgery. Smith+Nephew representatives and other clients can use the telecommunications network to monitor procedures and advise surgeons during the procedures. (Avail Medsystems CEO Daniel Hawkins will sit on a panel discussing the solution at the Oct. 6 DeviceTalks Tuesday. Register here.)
In an interview with MassDevice last month, Hawkins said the Palo Alto, Calif–based startup gives medical device manufacturers the opportunity to support customers in operating rooms and the growing number of surgery centers. The pending shortage of sales reps to support surgeries was compounded by the arrival of COVID-19, which is restricting the flow of non-essential personnel from hospitals.
In a statement released by Smith+Nephew, Dr. J.W. Thomas Byrd an orthopedic hip surgeon at the Nashville Hip Institute, suggested the “fully interactive telecommunications format can be superior to even having the actual person there.” For its part, Avail says its system doesn’t replace sales reps, but can augment the procedure.
Cindy Walker, senior vice president of global medical education for Smith+Nephew, said Avail’s willingness to install equipment at no-cost to hospitals or medical device companies helped check all the boxes the company sought in a partner. Avail charges medical device companies for each minute of access. “The ability to tap into the extensive facility network they are building and eliminating the need for Smith+Nephew, or our customers, to invest in capital is an important option for us,” She said.
In the earlier interview with MassDevice, Hawkins said he started Avail in 2017 after identifying what he sees as a weak spot in medtech sales. Hawkins says medtech’s large sales force – anywhere between 100,000 and 110,000 people — spend more than half its time on logistics and travel.
Hawkins also anticipated the pressures on sales reps would only increase as hospitals began pushing more procedures to smaller, more remote ambulatory surgery centers. This growing demand on sales reps — who Hawkins says he sees as invaluable players in surgery — convinced him medtech companies would be eager to find more efficient ways to keep their sales reps connected.
“We’re thrilled that Smith+Nephew is offering Avail’s Procedural Telemedicine solution to
complement their highly innovative products,” Hawkins said in the release. “When technology can help remove the historic requirement for physical presence in the operating room to collaborate during a procedure, clinical education and access to specialized medical expertise has no boundaries.”
Avail has raised $25 million in a Series A from Baidu Ventures, Coatue Management, Lux Capital, Playground Global, Refractor Capital, and Sonder Capital.