EVIS EXERA III has arrived. Daniela Zimmermann of European Hospital, asked Rüdiger Tamm, Olympus Senior Product Manager for Gastroenterology in the firm’s European Medical Systems Division about the company’s past and present gastroenterology R&D.
‘Our company sports a long history of success stories in the development of flexible endoscopy. We began in 1950 with a gastrocamera,’ he recapped. ‘We added fibre endoscopy and video endoscopy. In 2000, we introduced the EVIS EXERA system with a technology upgrade in 2006. Every one of these products was a major technological milestone. When we launched EVIS EXERA II with Narrow Band Imaging (NBI) and HDTV, everyone, including ourselves, thought that no significant further development was possible in endoscopic imaging following that revolutionary step.’
Nonetheless, Olympus achieved further major modifications - what were the drivers?
‘We are continuously looking to improve the technologies we offer. Impulses come from our team and from our customers. At Olympus, there’s a lot of communication involved between the creative R&D departments – the highly competent engineers in the R&D departments and production facilities in Japan – who analyse whether ideas can prove to be viable and feasible – the service and support teams who will need to ensure function and quality over a product’s lifetime, and the marketing team who, interacting with R&D staff in numerous markets, interview customers about their needs and product suggestions. In addition to product innovation there are R&D teams in Japan who work on basic technologies, such as electronic and microcomponents and endoscopic optics.
‘From the interaction among those teams, and with customers, concepts with feature sets emerge that are analysed regarding clinical benefits and commercial viability. Our opto-digital, microscopy and consumer products expertise is a great plus.
‘When we take an innovation to market, the R&D phase is typically already starting in the life cycle of its predecessor. A prototype with selected features emerges, which is evaluated within our network of collaborating physicians.’
In this respect, what are the major changes in EVIS EXERA III?
‘The key challenge for our R&D team in further optimising the EVIS EXERA II technology was to come up with modifications which, again, show marked clinical and economic benefits. It turned out that optimising NBI would involve benefits: enhanced luminosity and colour contrast could help broaden the scope of applications. We were successful in making these improvements real, taking NBI to a new dimension. In its pursuit of the perfect endoscopy system, Olympus has introduced EVIS EXERA III as the next milestone towards improved clinical outcomes.
‘Dual focus is another case in point: diagnostic analysis of mucosa and in-situ characterisation has long been practiced in Japan, whereas in the West, the approach was neglected, particularly because of the large effort that goes with the technique. With EVIS EXERA III, this method is now readily available to any physician at the push of a button. Our users love this ... and so do we!’
What’s in the endoscopy R&D pipeline now?
‘Everybody is now excited about EVIS EXERA III – but we are certain there is still room for further optimisation; and miniaturisation and digitalisation will drive major advances regarding interventional applications of endoscopy.’
What else does Olympus offer physicians as a whole?
‘Physicians expect us to spread our know-how to support the quality of their work. We respond by carrying out a huge number of training activities in Europe – and, of course, worldwide. In Hamburg, for example, we operate two training centres; the one at the Olympus Surgical Technologies Europe production facility focuses on rigid endoscopy, whereas flexible endoscopy is key at the ENDO CLUB Academy, founded in 2011. We operate that academy in collaboration with the UKE (University Hospital Eppendorf) and the Asklepios Altona and Barmbek on the campus of the UKE; it will train about 500 physicians in 2012. Besides the Endo Club Nord and numerous other major events, Olympus supports over 700 smaller endoscopy conferences across Europe.
‘In addition to quality and innovative technology from Olympus, users highly appreciate the value of our educational activities in their field.’
With an IT background, in 1991 Rüdiger Tamm set out on a career at Olympus Germany as a consultant for documentation software in endoscopy. Starting with EVIS 140 he launched all follow-up video endoscopy series in the German market and also contrived the concept of Olympus Video System Integration (VSI) for endoscopy. Since 2006 Mr. Tamm worked on preparing the European roll-out of EVIS EXERA III as a Senior Product Manager for Gastroenterology, in the Medical Systems Division of Olympus Europa Holding GmbH.