Hickey Innovation Impact Award: Team S[erg]ICALTM


The Hickey Family Foundation was established in 2004 to support activities in three specific mission areas: rescuing youth; supporting medical training centers to develop medical technology; and working with universities, medical centers, and research institutions to help pave the way for breakthrough innovations that can improve the lives of patients.

Cleveland Clinic Innovations and The Hickey Family Foundation have a relationship that dates back several years to support making the most promising Cleveland Clinic inventions available to the medical community. In 2018, the pair launched the Hickey Innovation Impact Award to seek applications from caregivers working on highly innovative and impactful projects that align with the Foundation’s mission. Winners of the award receive a $25,000 prize to further develop their novel solution. This year’s 4th Annual Hickey Innovation Impact Award has been presented to a group of caregivers working to combat musculoskeletal injuries (MSK) in practicing surgeons and interventionalists.

Known as the S[erg]ICAL™ project, the award-winning innovation seeks to rectify the issue of MSK injuries common among physicians and other surgical staff. The body positioning and posture that surgical staff are forced into when optimizing their visual field during surgery, coupled with the ancillary equipment they wear, often leads to largely uncomfortable ergonomic issues – some with lasting consequences that affect both the health of these individual clinicians and their availability to provide care for patients.

The prevalence of this issue has been widely reported through studies and surveys in literature. A 2014 Journal of Surgical Research study reported that 50-85% of physicians in surgical specialties report MSK symptoms in the workplace. A 2017 JAMA Surgery meta-analysis study showed that when MSK injury/pain is present, 12% of the surveyed physicians required a leave of absence, practice modification or early retirement. Even though physicians in procedural specialties are at high risk for MSK injury and pain, and there is growing ergonomic concentration in settings such as corporate offices and the manufacturing industry, there remains little innovation for technologies to improve performance and ergonomics in surgery.

The S[erg]ICAL project was initiated through the effort of five surgeons (representing multiple specialties), one physical therapist and an external ergonomic subject matter expert, who recognized this was an unmet need. Bringing expertise in cockpit and spatial design for military, car racing and office applications, the external expert helped the team explore this problem and offered guidance for the development of technologies to support and improve the surgical performance experience. Team S[erg]ICAL has completed early exploratory work to help scope the project and a potential solution. Today, they continue to explore surgeon ergonomic needs and seek understanding of the issue on its most granular level. With the help of the Hickey Innovation Impact Award, the team hopes to have a working support system prototype to test in the operating room within 12 months.

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