BackTable / ENT / Podcast / Episode #106
Operating Room Innovation: the ExplORer Surgical Story
with Dr. Alexander Langerman
In this episode, host Dr. Bryan Hartley interviews head and neck surgeon and entrepreneur Dr. Alex Langerman about the story of his startup, ExplORer Surgical and his idea generation advice for physician-innovators.
BackTable, LLC (Producer). (2023, April 25). Ep. 106 – Operating Room Innovation: the ExplORer Surgical Story [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.backtable.com
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Dr. Alexander Langerman
Dr. Alexander Langerman is a head and neck surgeon with Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN, and the co-founder of Explorer Surgical.
Dr. Bryan Hartley
Dr. Bryan Hartley is a practicing radiologist, host of the BackTable Innovation series, and co-founder of Pulmera in Palo Alto, CA.
Dr. Langerman starts by describing his journey into head and neck surgery and his University of Chicago research lab, where he conducted research over improvements in the operating room (OR) setting. The idea to make the OR more efficient stemmed from a conversation with a medical student who wondered why so many operating tools were opened and laid out, but never used. This question led him on a tour of different ORs around the country, where he learned that a lot of his colleagues shared the same frustrations about inefficiencies in the OR. When he returned to his institution, he visited different surgical departments and integrated their concerns into a roadmap of aspects that could be improved upon.
We also discuss the value of bringing in non-physicians who have fresh perspectives. Dr. Langerman sought feedback and help from business and design students, which eventually led to the incorporation of his company, ExplORer Surgical, and a pitch at the New Venture Challenge Competition. While he worked on communication with surgeons about minimizing waste in the OR, his co-founder, Jennifer Fried, led the effort to find investors. The company’s inflection point occurred when they shifted the focus away from healthcare institutions and towards medical device companies. The ExplORer Surgical app became a playbook that device companies could use to educate operators and ensure that their devices were being implemented in the exact way that they were intended to be used, thus ensuring consistent outcomes and minimizing complications. It also offers a way for sales representatives to virtually teleconference into the OR and guide operators through the procedure. During COVID, this technology became incredibly useful to ensure that collaboration between the OR and medical device companies could still continue. The company was eventually acquired by GHX Medical in 2021.
Dr. Langerman encourages physician entrepreneurs to try “idea harvesting,” defined as pitching your idea to others, in the effort to see what resonates with them and learn how to improve your pitch. Additionally, finding a team of business professionals that can help run day-to-day operations is a great way to free up time and energy for further idea generation.
Dr. Alex Langerman Website:
New Venture Challenge Competition:
SBIR and STTR Grants:
Social Physics by Alex Pentland:
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