J&J's digital spree continues with Polyphonic 'social network' for surgeons

Johnson & Johnson MedTech is taking a step closer toward its goal of delivering a new generation of surgery—where analytics and patient data can be automatically translated into informative feedback.

The company is lifting the curtain on its upcoming Polyphonic digital ecosystem, designed to pull together various data sources and offer a place for clinicians to workshop and ultimately disseminate best practices.

Think of it as something of a private social network for surgeons. With Polyphonic, healthcare providers can follow patients as they progress through pre-op tasks, check in virtually and observe remotely as they undergo the procedure, and finally track recovery through their discharge from the hospital by linking with electronic health records.

Surgeons can also create video clips from their operations—to highlight how they navigated an unexpected complication, for example—and then annotate, share and tag other collaborators within the health system for their input and review, all in a secure manner.

And while those videos and case notes alone could be used by surgeons to support their own education, J&J sees the potential for quantitative data that could be extracted to help build broader benchmarking metrics for different techniques or personal surgical styles—with Polyphonic hosting its own programs while also serving as a storefront for AI algorithms from third-party developers.

“As an example, one minute of high-definition surgical video contains about 25 times more data than a single high-resolution CT,” said Shan Jegatheeswaran, J&J MedTech's global VP for digital solutions. “So the opportunity is there—and frankly speaking, it is already happening, but I would say on a more case-by-case basis.”

Currently, the process for sharing surgical video around a health system can require surgeons to work their way through multiple, fragmented programs, Jegatheeswaran said during a company preview of the Polyphonic system. “It's very cumbersome, it's manual, and it's not really what drives adoption at scale.” 

“And so we asked ourselves, what if we brought together J&J's digital solutions into sort of a connected, seamless, harmonized environment,” he said. “What if we brought all of our device data and robotic platforms onto a single ecosystem for a change?”

Jegatheeswaran said that J&J chose to incorporate the sharing and tagging features seen in social networks in order to “keep the digital experience a natural one” for surgeons, nurses and other providers. At the same time, J&J cited a survey where 45% of surgeons today said that they do not receive any professional feedback during the course of their work.

“Of course, those social elements come with responsibility around access, security and quality, which we take seriously. But we find that this social approach will help drive adoption, and with that adoption comes more data points and better data quality—so that is part of our strategy and will be one of our key differentiators," Jegatheeswaran said.

Currently in an early access beta program, Polyphonic will start out with a focus on laparoscopic surgery before branching into additional modalities, including robotic programs. The platform will also aim to be largely vendor-agnostic—such as by serving as a one-stop shop for video libraries, for example, regardless of their source—though some future use cases may be more complex and proprietary.

J&J also plans to ship Polyphonic alongside its upcoming Ottava soft-tissue surgery system, with it serving as the platform’s “predominant off-device experience,” according to Jegatheeswaran. Ottava, with its four robotic arms built into a frame the size of a hospital bed, is slated to request FDA permission to begin clinical trials later this year. Polyphonic, meanwhile, is being set up for a global commercial launch in 2025.