A Shropshire vet who created a ground-breaking app to help plan his operations has seen his invention adopted by more than 50 countries across the globe. Katy Rink asked Rory Paton how he came up with the idea for vPOP-PRO.
In his day job, Rory Paton is a consultant orthopaedic veterinary surgeon and owner of ‘VetSOS’ – his customers are other vets across Shropshire and the Midlands who call him in for complex operations.
Six years ago, Rory spotted the potential for a tech-based tool that might allow him to plan operations on the go, using an iPad, PC, Mac, tablet or even a mobile phone.
“As a mobile surgeon, I needed a no compromise, precise, easy to use portable planning solution - nothing was out there that fitted the bill,” he recalls. “Alternative software was hugely expensive, based on human software, often pixelated and tied you to one computer in a building.”
Enter ‘vPOP-PRO’ – Rory’s orthopaedic planning and templating app that allows busy vets to review the images, lab results, ‘history’ and reports of each incoming trauma or deformity patient wherever they are, and then precisely plan operations using ‘x-rays’.
Rory explains: “If you can imagine being able to cut and paste broken bones back together on your iPhone, straightening bent legs that have grown incorrectly, or seeing which hip and knee replacement implants might fit on a bone of an x-ray of a Chihuahua, Great Dane, or even a horse to hold it back together, that’s what vPOP-PRO does.
“Essentially it’s like having a pencil case of all your crucial measuring instruments - protractor, compass, ruler, pencil - in your pocket, along with an entire Retina display catalogue of all the metal implants that you could possibly ever need to fix a broken bone or joint.”
It means that busy surgeons on the go can plan the procedure wherever they are, on any device without being tied to one computer and expensive license in a clinic. There’s also a case sharing feature which allows vets to collaborate too and vPOP-PRO also automatically updates itself.
“Surgeons are mobile, we are under a passionate pressure to get our patients mobile, so we need mobile solutions,” Rory adds. “Whilst our primary goal is to support the educators, we want to provide easy to use, affordable, precise planning tools direct to surgeons to benefit patients.”
His app is used by veterinary surgeons, residents, interns and students in over 50 countries, in hundreds of referral hospitals and in 43 universities across the globe.
"To get surgeons and university professors at the top of their field coming to me and thanking me for making their teaching lives easier- that is as exciting as it is humbling" - Rory Paton, inventor of vPOP-PRO
There is an obvious potential overlap with human surgery too: “We don’t officially support it, however we do also have some human surgeons who subscribe,” Rory says.
Surgical planning does not just have to be precise, but accessible, intuitive, pleasurable and convenient to use – vPOP-PRO has been designed with user interface and experience in mind. It is intuitive and aesthetically pleasing.
“I’m primarily a surgeon myself, so I prefer to see our customers as colleagues. As much as vPOP-PRO is a B2B model, we are supporting peers, side by side.”
Many customers find the tool on recommendation, but Rory also promotes his app via webinar tutorials, ‘top tips’ content on his social media channels, at veterinary conferences and through peer-to-peer support on online surgical forums.
The genesis of an idea
vPOP-PRO was an entirely personal project born of frustration, as Rory explains. His background is not technical, he’s a small animal vet through-and-through (Liverpool Vet School, 1996), but he spotted the need for a better tech solution to planning his operations.
“Existing software just didn’t do what I needed it to, nor is it able to solve planning problems that I had answers to in my head.
“Alternative softwares are usually derived from human products and they have these small print disclaimers to say that ‘you cannot rely on the implants for accurate planning’. To me, to put a disclaimer in professional surgical planning software to say ‘our drawings are approximate‘ is a deeply worrying message for our patients and their owners.
“So, I thought about a no-compromise answer. On the road, the three resources I always have with me are a smartphone, internet and a finger. One morning, I just drew out the workflow in the steam of a shower screen with my finger.”
It turned out that many of Rory’s peers and colleagues shared his frustrations; many made an initial investment, as did the developers.
“My grandfather always said to me, ‘get the very best tools you can’, Rory says.
“I needed the best tool for Veterinary Preoperative Orthopaedic Planning. And I’m very proud to say that’s vPOP-PRO.”
He is passionate about improving his app, avidly reading journal articles and learning from his peers to fine-tune his invention. Ultimately, teaching better planning, at university level, makes for better vets – and better outcomes for our pets.
“It’s hugely fulfilling,” Rory says. “To get surgeons and university professors at the top of their field coming to me and thanking me for making their teaching lives easier - that is as exciting as it is humbling.
“I am most moved when I see pictures of surgical theatres with vPOP-PRO in the background, or lecturers teaching around the world with vPOP-PRO.”
The tool is evolving so fast, with so many growth opportunities and possible functionalities, Rory says – but his focus is always on listening to what his subscribers need.
“The most exciting discussions with universities and educators start with ‘Rory- is there any way you could get vPOP-PRO to do x/y/z?‘ he explains.
“Innovation is one thing but I have learnt there is a humble balance point that ensures you listen and deliver what customers suggest and value. Customers then feel special as they feel that they have been part of the evolution and product development. It just so happens that this brings a passionate loyalty, which boosts the lifetime value of each and every individual customer. What business wouldn’t chase down and pay for that?”
- This feature is sponsored by vPOP-PRO
- vPOP-PRO offers orthopaedic planning at your fingertips - available for iOS, MacOS, Windows and browser - to try it for free and find out more visit: vpop-pro.com