6 Questions with Daniel Hawkins, CEO at Avail, who is transforming the way orthopedic procedures will be supported.

I first heard of Avail a few years ago while they were in stealth mode. Once the worldwide pandemic hit, I immediately thought that the Avail technology was the perfect technology solution for OR support at the perfect time in history. I sought out Daniel for a written and a podcast interview.

I sat down (virtually) with Daniel to learn more about the Avail story.

#1 -How did Avail start?  Take us back to the lightbulb moment.

I’ve been an innovator and entrepreneur all my life. I started my first business at the age of 11 and have been hooked ever since. For me, innovation is about solving a problem and drawing connections that others don’t see. And my passion lies in identifying and closing gaps in order to provide the best patient care possible.

Throughout my career I have worked with technologies used to treat patients in operating rooms, including my most recent company, Shockwave Medical, which went public in 2019.  There is one commonality across all of those technologies and companies – the need for medical advisors to be physically in an operating room to collaborate with surgeons. In that commonality I saw opportunity that could be addressed with technology.

Historically, operating rooms have crammed in multiple doctors and advisors. Their shared expertise is needed on everything from the procedure itself to the use of medical devices, but all that physical presence increases costs and infection risks. Avail started when I saw a way for technology to make it unnecessary for all those people to be in the same room, while allowing them to keep collaborating as if they were. The creation of Avail was about combining sophisticated technology with the right market opportunity and a team that understands the specific needs and challenges of healthcare delivery.

#2 – Tell us the story of how the company was put together with team and funding. 

Avail was founded in 2017 and for the past three years we’ve been working on fine tuning the technology, go-to market structure and building the Procedural Telemedicine(TM) category. 

To date, we’ve raised $25 million via two funding rounds. Our most recent funding round closed in Q1 2020.  We are fortunate to have excellent investors, including Coatue, Lux Capital, Sonder Capital, Playground Global, Baidu Ventures, and Refractor Capital, as well as Board Members like Fred Moll, who recognize the importance of digitizing physical presence. 

We were actually still in stealth mode when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the globe. We recognized that our technology was needed more than ever to support both urgent and elective surgeries across the country. There was a need for thousands of experts to be present in medical procedures, but physical presence was impossible due to travel restrictions, risk of contracting the disease, patient infection risk and fear. As a result, we came out of stealth mode early, accelerating our efforts to bring this important technology to physicians, hospitals and medical device companies in order to foster the best patient care possible by increasing collaboration capabilities regardless of physical presence. 

#3 – Describe the Avail System.

We provide a fully interactive collaborative virtual experience for both the remote user and the treating physician – we call this Procedural Telemedicine.

The Avail System consists of two parts:

  1. Our portable, fully integrated Avail Console that sits in an operating or procedure room. The Avail Console has sophisticated audio/video technology and multiple high definition cameras that provide enhanced procedural viewing. The Console broadcasts in real time, without latency, and is HIPPA compliant.  
  2. On the other side, a physician, medical device specialist, or other healthcare professional uses our remote App installed on a standard touchpad device which allows them to see everything the console user displays in real-time. Through the App, the remote user can control the cameras to get up close views not otherwise possible with the naked eye, annotate directly on screen, access views from external imaging equipment, split the screens to view inputs side by side, and freeze frames.  These capabilities combine to provide a content rich environment for medical advisors to collaborate with treating surgeons.

Through our sophisticated audio/video technology, physicians and industry experts can see and hear everything as if they are physically present in the medical procedure. In many instances, Avail’s technology provides better collaboration capability than is possible by being physically present in the operating room. 

#4 – What are the benefits to the hospital of Avail?  And what are the benefits to the device companies?

Avail provides significant benefits for both hospitals and device companies, including:

1.       Enhancing clinical knowledge sharing

2.       Fostering collaboration

3.       Supporting faster training

4.       Mitigating infection risk

5.       Lowering costs

Avail can be used by hospitals and healthcare systems to put the right people in a procedure room virtually helping to reduce costs and containment risk by reducing the number of people that need to be physically present in the hospital setting.

Similarly for medical device companies Avail can be used to ensure field teams have access to a procedure room to provide necessary training and support without having to physically be in the room. This means they do not have to travel between hospitals, eliminating costly expenses and time for delayed or cancelled procedures. Ultimately with Avail, industry representatives (sales, clinical support staff, proctors) can support more procedures without the complex logistics associated with in-person collaboration, while also minimizing crowding and infection risks in the hospital or procedure room. 

Avail’s system can also be used for training of new medical devices and procedures, helping to accelerate adoption of new technology advancements and drive deeper market penetration, ensuring that more physicians are trained and more patients have access to advancements in care.

The nature of the technology, combined with Avail’s time-based usage model, enables medical device companies and field teams to use the system as they deem appropriate:  for a portion of, or nearly all, procedures they would otherwise support in person.  It can be used to support an entire procedure, or just “look in” for 10-15 minutes if their customers need some on-the-spot input – it’s up to them.

#5 – How will Avail change the way orthopedics procedures are supported?

Avail can fundamentally transform the way orthopedic procedures are supported. Historically, medical device representatives, consulting clinicians and technical experts have had open access to enter and exit procedure rooms. It is well understood that these professionals provide invaluable support to surgical teams.  It is also understood that support of this kind has always come at a hefty price – in terms of dollars and contamination risk. Those not only include the direct and opportunity costs associated with the time spent in the operating room, but simply getting those professionals there in the first place requires millions of hours and dollars spent coordinating travel, aligning schedules and preparing to safely enter a procedure room.  The last of these is especially important today since, more than ever before, having additional people in operating rooms can increase contamination risks.

Avail eliminates the need for these professionals to physically be in the operating room for every procedure — while facilitating collaboration and reducing infection risks. For orthopedics in particular, this means more efficient scheduling, reduced operational costs and improved management of contamination risks for both medical device companies and hospitals.  

#6 – Where do you see Avail going in the future?

We are on the cusp of a major transformation in the healthcare system. At Avail, we’ve long believed that there was a need for telemedicine – and specifically Procedural Telemedicine  – and now the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated adoption.

The interest in Avail from medical device companies, hospitals and physicians has been really encouraging and we think the need for Procedural Telemedicine  is only going to grow as the healthcare systems realizes the New Normal of Covid-19. Ultimately, our goal is that one day you’ll see an Avail console in every operating room. 

For more information about Avail visit https://avail.io/