The COVID-19 pandemic posed many challenges for the medical field — especially for performing surgeries —, but it also sparked innovation and a major change in surgical practices. As noticed by WIRED, a remarkable example of this is the story of two doctors (Archie Fernando and Nadine Hachach-Haram) who collaborated across thousands of miles using a robotic system to save a man’s life.
In April 2020, during the pandemic lockdown in the UK, urologist Archie Fernando reached out to her colleague Nadine Hachach-Haram, a reconstructive plastic surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. They wanted to help in any way they could, as most surgeries were postponed.
Proximie: An AR platform to enable collaboration among surgeons
Hachach-Haram, who was also the CEO and founder of a health-tech startup called Proximie, had created an augmented reality platform that enabled remote collaboration among surgeons; this technology allowed real-time communication and sharing of surgical procedures through web-based software.
Fernando faced a challenging surgery: Mo Tajer had testicular cancer that spread to his abdomen — Fernando opted for a robotic keyhole surgery, but Hachach-Haram was not experienced with it; She used Proximie, a platform that connected her with Jim Porter (a US-based surgeon who was skilled in this technique). Porter guided her remotely using augmented reality.
The surgery happened on May 21, 2020. Fernando operated the robot near Mo, while Porter gave her advice from Seattle. They worked together for 5 hours and completed the surgery successfully. This was a remarkable achievement for Proximie and its founder, who was a surgeon that wanted to improve access to quality care globally.
Becoming a vital tool for remote support and training
Hachach-Haram created Proximie to enable surgeons to learn, collaborate, and share expertise across borders and in real-time; prior to the pandemic, the venture had already been used in surgeries across 30 countries, but the crisis accelerated its adoption so the company’s team worked tirelessly to refine and expand the technology.
As routine surgeries were suspended, Proximie became a vital tool for remote support and training, benefiting both experienced surgeons seeking assistance and trainees who lacked training opportunities.
The platform’s capabilities extended beyond live surgeries — Proximie’s online library stored thousands of recorded surgical sessions, enabling surgeons to review, edit, and tag footage for training and debriefing purposes. This vast collection of surgical videos has become the largest database of its kind.
A new era in global healthcare collaboration
Proximie’s impact on surgical practices has been profound. Its adoption has increased, with over 20% of NHS hospitals in the UK now having access to the software. Surgeons worldwide have leveraged the platform to enhance their skills, and trainees have gained unprecedented access to educational resources and live surgeries.
Nadine Hachach-Haram’s vision of a digital operating system has become a reality, revolutionizing surgical practices and transcending the limitations of traditional surgical training.
Through Proximie, surgeons can collaborate, learn, and improve patient outcomes, regardless of their physical location. The daring robot surgery that saved a man’s life exemplifies the beginning of a new era in surgical advancements and global healthcare collaboration.