Sedasys — J&J’s machine that automates the sedation of certain adults
Johnson & Johnson has created a machine that assists anesthesiologists in doing their job. Sedasys is being marketed as the safer and cost effective way of having anesthesia administered to a patient for 18 years or older and undergoing a colon-cancer screening. Colonoscopies are a common recommendation to anyone over 50 years old. As the youngest baby boomers hit 52 this year, we see a large segment of the population going for this routine exam.
What Anesthesiologists Do?
Anesthesiologists carefully monitor patients throughout surgery using electronic devices that continually display vital signs. Major advances in monitoring include the continuous measurement of blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, heart function and respiratory patterns. Based on the stats, the doctor administers the right about of Propofol.
In addition, they are an expensive to have at a hospital.
They earn in the top 10% of all doctors and are the highest paid non-surgeons. What contributes to their salary is the fact that nearly all surgery requires some sort of anesthesia.
In the 1940s, for every one million patients operated on under full anesthesia, 640 died. By the end of the 1980s, fatalities were down to four per every million, thanks to modern safety standards and better medical training.
However, a recent article published in the Deutsches Ärzteblatt, the German Medical Association’s official international science journal, shows that after decades of decline, the worldwide death rate during full anesthesia is back on the rise, to about seven patients in every million. And the number of deaths within a year after a general anesthesia is frighteningly high: one in 20. In the over-65 age group, it’s one in 10.
With malpractice on the rise, hospitals are looking for any ways to mitigate their risk for being sued.
Anesthesiologists typically charge $600 to $2,000 for their involvement. Sedasys would cost about $150 a procedure. Reimbursement would vary, but insurers are expected to pick up the tab. More than $1 billion is spent each year sedating patients undergoing otherwise painful colonoscopies, according to a RAND Corp. study that J&J sponsored.
What is happening?
We have a hodgepodge of factors contributing to a need for change in the status quo. Expensive doctors in addition to malpractice from a fairly risky procedure leads to a need to standardize (mitigate costs) and automate (mitigate human error) this process.
As J&J sells more of these machine, anesthesiologists will feel like their jobs (and salaries) would be threatened. They will try to dismiss it by pointing out cases where it would be better to have a real life doctor in the operating room, over a machine.
Power of the Routine
J&J smartly positioned Sedasys to assist the most common procedure, the colonoscopy. Just like Starbucks was able to get a record number of users to sign up for their payment app because it was centered about a daily routine of buying coffee, so did Sedasys.
How did Sedasys become so smart? Well it started off as a dashboard for anesthesiologists to monitor a patients’ vitals and administer Propofol. Once thousands of anesthesiologists were using the Sedasys on an hourly basis, they were in essence teaching the machine what is it to be an anesthesiologists. With a large enough sample set, a machine understood that is a person’s heart rate was X and blood oxygen was Y, then needed Z amount of Propofol.
Landscapes shift. Budgets tighten. Insurance companies gets greedier. Lawyers get more aggressive. What seemed like once as a nice to have, is looking more like a need. As human assistants do more primary procedures so will robot assistants. This is especially true when they do them perfectly at a fraction of the price. And they were “taught” by the best.
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