Hillel's Tech Corner: Theator has surgeons’ backs

The Surgical Intelligence platform leverages video to power surgeons’ decisions today, and will be the software intelligence for autonomous robotic procedures tomorrow.

Theator. (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As a child, I remember a specific line from the 1978 version of Superman. Lois Lane is falling from a tall building and Superman swoops in and catches her. He then says, “easy, miss. I’ve got you.” She replies, “you, you’ve got me? Who’s got you?”
That is kind of how I feel about doctors, and specifically surgeons. These physicians are people just like you and me, and they spend their days performing highly complex procedures on their patients. They have us, but who has them?
The answer is a company called Theator, which uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to help surgeons gain deep scientific insight into their own performances and those of surgeons worldwide.
I first heard of Theator from one of the company’s investors and a friend of mine, Gigi Levy-Weiss, who is a partner at NfX. Additional investors in Theator include  Eyal Gura, Stage One Ventures, iAngels, and KdT Ventures. The company previously raised a $3 million seed round and is currently in the process of raising additional funds.
Theator was founded in 2018 and has offices in Tel Aviv, where the research and development takes place, as well as San Mateo, California.
Theator’s vision isn’t just better-performing surgeons.
The company has set out to create a whole new experience of AI in surgery or as they call it, “A next-generation OR.” And, what truly sets them apart from other companies using AI in medicine is that they analyze video as opposed to just static images. The Surgical Intelligence platform leverages video to power surgeons’ decisions today, and will be the software intelligence for autonomous robotic procedures tomorrow.
To get there, Theator is first tackling the antiqued apprenticeship model to bring surgeon growth to the 21st century.
CEO Dr. Tamir Wolf explains, “optimal surgical outcomes depend on making the right decisions when facing situations during surgery. Doing so requires exposure to experience, at scale. It also requires analyses and continuous refinement of skills based on past experiences. But this is where surgery, until now, has come up short. Surgeons gather experience, but it’s limited to where they train and operate. Also, they don’t review and analyze their performance routinely, their evolution as masters of their craft is subjective at best.”
We use data to make decisions in so many aspects of our lives, and yet, perhaps where we need it most – as patients – surgeons often have little to rely on aside from their intuition.
Theator’s platform augments pre-op surgeon preparation, enabling surgeons to review critical moments from operations – just like the one they’re about to perform – in order to make sharper decisions even in scenarios they’ve never encountered before. Surgeons also receive post-op analysis with quick, precise, and objective feedback on their performance, to build expertise and refine their skills for the future. The company’s algorithms are trained on thousands of hours of surgical procedures from around the world – exposing them and Theator’s platform to more situations and experiences than any surgeon might come across during their entire education and or professional career.
The way the platform works is by analyzing and condensing hours of video into mere minutes, offering surgeons the ability to easily access defining moments across a range of parameters including steps, events, key milestones, and decision-making junctions.
Surgeons can view each procedure as an ordered list of steps and jump right to the specific step they want to learn from. They can also examine moments at the critical crossroads between steps or before events to make sharper, more well-informed decisions in the future. Finally, they can focus on specific events that happen throughout the procedure to better refine key skills and zero in on the major checkpoints to ensure they consistently align with best practices in every procedure.
The company was co-founded by Wolf and CTO Dotan Asselmann, and over the past two years they’ve assembled an impressive team of dedicated developers, computer vision engineers, medical students, and surgeons, all focused on a singular vision: powering every surgical experience – human and robotic - with best practices in order to alleviate the variability and disparity in the care of billions of patients worldwide.
Wolf explains, “to put it bluntly, in today’s reality, where you live determines if you live. But it shouldn’t matter where a surgeon learned her craft, or where a patient goes in for treatment. Quality of care should be uniform. In the 21st century, there really is no place for the variability we see that impacts patient outcomes. Our unique approach of linking patient and surgeon characteristics to decisions made in the operating room and the outcomes that follow, provides unprecedented insight into what best practices look like. These insights will then enable surgeons around the world to offer optimal care to their patients. The right approach to the right patient, by the right surgeon will result in the most optimal outcomes.”
At McGill University in Montreal, residents and fellows are actualizing the paradigm shift from the outdated apprenticeship model to a competency-based (metric-oriented) model. The students are using Theator to routinely review surgical procedures they’ve just completed, assessing their performance using clinically validated objective tools.
Beginning in September, Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, the largest acute care facility in Israel, announced that it will implement Theator’s technology to provide insights on best surgical practices and reduce medical error. This partnership comes on the heels of the Health Ministry’s intention to start capturing each and every procedure performed in the operating room, as well as the Israeli Medical Associations’ claim of intent to shift residency programs to a more objective, metric-orientated training system – Theator is making these paradigm shifts not only possible but also seamless.
According to Wolf, this is only the beginning of Theator’s market influence and penetration capabilities and the company plans to roll out strategic partnerships with a number of hospitals and surgical centers in the US and around the world, which are currently under NDA, in the coming months.
To me, what is most remarkable about Theator is that it gives us patients the ability to fully trust our surgeons when we are at our most vulnerable state, and when our lives are quite literally in their hands. The knowledge that data is being used in addition to the doctor’s expertise and intuition is a tremendous step forward in achieving full patient confidence that they are in good hands.