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‘Hybrid’ operating rooms mean collaboration, growth for Steris Corp.

Worldwide demand for so-called “hybrid” operating rooms is growing at a double-digit rate, despite a deep economic recession that is limiting growth in more traditional surgical markets. Mentor’s STERIS Corp. is participating in growth of hybrid rooms by partnering with other medical technology makers.

MENTOR, Ohio — Worldwide demand for so-called “hybrid” operating rooms is growing at a double-digit rate, despite a deep economic recession that is limiting growth in more traditional surgical markets.

And Mentor company STERIS Corp. is collaborating with other top medical technology makers to design and equip the next-generation operating rooms at hospitals and surgical centers around the globe.

Collaborations with companies like GE Healthcare and Philips Healthcare are helping STERIS add revenue — even during a recession — and participate in what experts call “disruptive technology” that is revolutionizing surgical care.

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Hybrid operating rooms are the product of two needs for most hospitals: better quality of care and better cost-efficiency. Hybrids meet these needs by combining minimally invasive and interventional surgical technologies with medical imaging and communications in one operating room.

In the traditional model, interventional procedures like heart catheterizations were done in separate rooms from medical imaging, which was done in separate rooms from surgeries, said Jim Norris, senior manager of market development at STERIS. Often, the catheterization or imaging rooms were far away from the operating rooms.

That meant trouble for patients undergoing minimally invasive procedures who took dramatic turns for the worse and required open surgeries, Norris said. The time it took to transfer patients to operating rooms, or to assemble surgical support teams and wheel in open procedure equipment often led to “poor outcomes,” he said.

The new model combines a full range of interventional, imaging and surgical services in one place — no transfers and no assembling surgical support. This leads to better patient care, especially in emergencies. It also leads to better use of the rooms, which are bigger than traditional ORs, and expensive to build and equip.

Hospitals and surgical centers could conceivably use the rooms 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, for many types of procedures, Norris said. “It’s all about room utilization and moving to cost-effective procedures.” he said.

Though STERIS is a market leader for operating room infrastructure — the lights, tables, booms and communications equipment – it doesn’t do medical imaging. So the Mentor company is starting to collaborate with other manufacturers to offer a complete product to hospitals.

“We’re finding that our customers want total-room solutions versus dealing with various vendors for their room design, lights, integration and imaging independently,” Norris said.

Here’s an example: STERIS recently agreed (pdf) to pair its sophisticated surgical lights, tables and video communications systems with the imaging and interventional technologies of GE Healthcare.

“Customers are demanding greater flexibility and choice in the way they outfit their interventional labs,” said Jayant Saha, general manager of GE Healthcare’s Interventional Global Marketing business. “GE and STERIS can leverage each other’s portfolio and strength to meet the customer’s needs.”

STERIS and Royal Philips Electronics struck an even deeper relationship in October — a “global alliance” to provide hybrid rooms for open and minimally invasive heart and blood vessesl procedures. STERIS contributes its HD 360° technologies and Philips offers its cardiovascular X-ray systems.

STERIS HD 360° (pdf) is the operating room infrastructure — a suite of visual and data controls, monitors and cameras; Harmony surgical lights and equipment booms; and STERIS surgical tables. STERIS puts together its technologies in different ways for open and minimally invasive heart, vascular, brain, and bone and joint procedures.

“This whole alliance started around being able to offer our customers a better solution,” said Richard Fabian, vice president for X-ray in North America for Philips Healthcare.

“If you look at the combination of the OR infrastructure market leader, which is STERIS, and the leader in cardiovascular X-ray, which is Philips, it made perfect sense to be able to work together to offer our customers the best solution,” said Fabian, who worked for STERIS in the mid-1990s and was the main instigator for the alliance.

STERIS has similar collaborations with Medtronic Navigation and IMRIS (interoperative MRI), and is working on additional alliances with other leading medical manufacturers, Norris said. STERIS project design professionals custom-design hybrid rooms for hospitals and plan equipment layout for streamlined installation, he said.

Surgeons are moving away from doing open procedures to doing minimally invasive ones, Fabian said. These surgeons are demanding more flexible operating rooms with advanced imaging capabilities.

Hospital demand for hybrid operating rooms also is growing, despite the recession, Norris said. The imaging component of the rooms is growing at about 17 percent per year, compared to about 1 percent for traditional imaging rooms, he said.

So cooperating with other companies on the rooms is helping to stabilize revenue for STERIS, even during the recession. Revenues for fiscal 2009, which ended March 31, grew 3 percent to $1.3 billion, the company said.

STERIS’ health care segment ended the fiscal fourth quarter with a backlog of $119.8 million, up 22 percent from the year-ago quarter. Steris has been working to even-out its backlogs during the year, said Stephen Norton, director of corporate communications. “Clearly, our strong OR integration [business] also contributed to the increase in backlog,” Norton said.

Meanwhile, integrating the digital technology in hybrid rooms — the video cameras, monitors and other visualization devices — turns minimally invasive surgery into real-time medicine, according to business research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. This could represent disruptive technology that engenders “a sustainable difference in surgical care,” Frost & Sullivan said.

[Photo illustration courtesy of STERIS Corp.]