JPM 2022: Johnson & Johnson links up with Microsoft to cloud-connect its digital surgery programs

Johnson & Johnson has tapped Microsoft to help build a cloud-connected software ecosystem around its digital surgery efforts. 

The tech giant will serve as J&J’s preferred cloud provider to link up its myriad connected medical devices and services—including exercise apps designed to prepare a patient for surgery, planning and navigation software, and the robotically controlled hardware carrying out the procedure, as well as rehabilitation programs for the days that follow.

“Collaborating with Microsoft will help take our digital approach to the next level as we create a best-in-class, unified platform across our innovative surgical technologies,” Larry Jones, J&J’s group chief information officer and global vice president of medical devices, said in a statement. The platform will encompass workflow software for healthcare professionals in addition to patient-facing offerings.

The deal was announced in a statement as the industry meets virtually for the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. 

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The project will also tap into Microsoft’s Azure services, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as its edge computing and internet-of-things support for medical devices located in the operating room.

This includes J&J’s Velys digital joint reconstruction system, which the healthcare giant's DePuy Synthes unit obtained an FDA clearance for in total knee replacements early last year, and Auris Health’s Monarch endoscopy robots for examining patients for lung cancer. J&J bought Auris Health for $3.4 billion in 2019. 

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The team-up with Microsoft will also help set the digital stage for J&J’s upcoming Ottava general surgery robot, which saw delays in its development and rollout plans late last year. 

With a six-arm, table-mounted system—born out of the company’s previous Verb Surgical venture with Verily—Ottava was previously slated for a clinical unveiling in the second half of 2022. 

During the company’s third-quarter earnings call in November 2021, J&J Chief Financial Officer Joseph Wolk said that Ottava’s first-in-human procedures would be pushed back at least two years, following technical challenges and disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.