The frontiers of bariatric innovation hold exciting new technologies that are transforming the obesity care industry.
Healthcare is constantly evolving. The use of robotic surgery increased by over 13% between 2012 and 2018 alone. In the bariatric specialty, robotic procedures are just one of the modern advancements driving changes in how we approach every stage of the surgical journey. From new adaptive technologies to the many uses of artificial intelligence, bariatrics is continuously growing and improving.
- Robotic procedures improve surgical precision and offer a safer and more ergonomic work environment to help tackle surgeon burnout.
- Interactive and adaptive interventions promise to keep more patients engaged with their healthcare throughout their daily lives.
- Artificial intelligence offers several opportunities to equip clinical teams with real-time insights and risk predictions.
- Acceptance-based behavioral treatments help harness psychological advancements to prevent postoperative weight gain.
Bariatric Innovation Today: 4 New and Emerging Technologies
In our constantly advancing industry, here are just four of the many innovations that are improving the effectiveness of bariatric surgery:
One of the most exciting and game-changing bariatric innovations in recent history is the introduction of surgical robots. These devices equip surgeons with exceptional precision, extending and enhancing their natural capabilities to continually improve the accuracy and efficiency of bariatric surgical procedures. These robots also offer advantages to the surgical profession’s sustainability, offering improved safety and ergonomics that could help tackle the growing challenge of physician burnout plaguing the healthcare industry.
The benefits of robotic bariatric surgery include:
- Better precision – robotic arms have a wider range of motion than human wrists, increasing precision, and accuracy.
- Sharper Imaging – the robot’s binocular vision captures high-definition imaging with depth perception, offering surgeons crisp images at ten times the magnification of their own eyes.
- Minimal Incisions – the robot can operate through an incision as small as 1/3-inch long, reducing infection risk and visible scarring.
- Improved ergonomics for surgeons – sitting at the robotic console is a more sustainable and ergonomic position for surgeons, reducing fatigue and, therefore, the chance of fatigue-related errors and delays.
Since the introduction of the earlier surgical robots in the early 2000s, skeptics have cited the steep learning curve and the higher cost as reasons to stick with a manual approach. But supporters argue that both of these issues can be overcome by thorough training that pays off in the long run through less invasive procedures that reduce risk, decreased stress on surgeons, and more consistent outcomes which can improve the marketability of your program.
Interactive and Adaptive Technology
Patient engagement has improved and is an important aspect of every bariatric journey. While mobile health (mHealth) technology has thus far focused on text-message-based interventions, recent innovations are unlocking the potential of real-time sensing to create adaptive interventions.
These Just-In-Time, Adaptive Interventions use wearable sensors that link wirelessly to smartwatches, smartphones, and computers to continuously track patients’ behaviors without manual input. The market for wearable devices is growing, and sensors can monitor:
- Physical activity
- Sedentary behavior
- Social context
This data offers bariatric providers to supercharge the individualization of care by providing patients with interventions that adapt to their changing context, considering the complete picture of a patient’s obesity, including the influence of a particular person and location on their eating habits, for example.
Artificial intelligence is at the frontier of a wide range of technological advancements across the healthcare industry. The algorithms that enable computers to learn and perform cognitive functions previously only achieved by the human brain are unlocking a host of opportunities in bariatrics:
- Machine Learning allows computers to learn and predict based on datasets, helping clinicians predict certain outcomes and search for unknown patterns. This can quickly and efficiently provide insights to inform clinical teams to fuel better results and further bariatric innovation.
- Artificial Neural Networks are already outperforming traditional risk assessment models. In bariatrics, this powerful tool can analyze and predict surgical risk, equipping surgeons with better information for decision-making and administrators with data that can inform initiatives like bundled payments.
- Natural Language Processing equips computers with the ability to understand human language and its meaning, which can be implemented in automated postoperative care to efficiently identify complications.
- Computer Vision is an exciting field providing a real-time enhancement to surgical imagery. Computer vision analysis of video during laparoscopic surgery can automatically identify the steps of a sleeve gastrectomy with 92.8% accuracy and help identify missing steps or complications to assist surgeons.
Acceptance-Based Behavioral Approaches
Weight gain after bariatric surgery is a common challenge. This can cause a loss of the benefits gained by the surgery, resulting in adverse or even dangerous health outcomes for patients. This is why some innovators are spearheading research into acceptance-based behavioral treatments (ABBTs) that equip patients with specialized psychological skills to help increase long-term adherence to dietary and exercise programs.
The core concepts of ABBTs are:
- Developing a willingness to experience discomfort rather than trying to change the experience to a more pleasurable one.
- Learning to psychologically distance themselves from uncomfortable internal experiences to act independently of those thoughts, emotions, cravings, and urges.
- Practicing mindful decision-making rather than automatic choices driven by external cues.
- Learning value-driven behavior, empowering patients to identify and act based on their life values (such as health). This helps them focus on the bigger picture of why they want to lose weight.
Early studies have shown that ABBT produces greater weight losses than the standard behavioral approach, making it a promising bariatric innovation.
Keep Your Bariatric Practice Up to Date with the Latest Technology
Every innovation in bariatric care helps the entire industry improve health outcomes, decrease costs, and continue to offer ever-improving services to our patients. That’s why Wellbe is proud to work with bariatric practices to streamline the patient experience. Our personalized guided automation solutions are designed to be flexible, so they adapt with your practice as you continue to innovate and grow.
Find out how Wellbe can support your growing bariatric practice.