Brad McCarty • June 19, 2017

BackTable is a Dallas-based startup that brings the medical device community together to improve clinical decisions, inspire innovation, and advance patient care through physician driven device reviews. We were able to spend some time with the founder and CEO, Dr. Aaron Fritts, a vascular and interventional radiologist, and ask him a few questions about his company.

Tell us about BackTable.

BackTable gives proceduralists a way to talk tools, situations, tips, and tricks, with one another. BackTable is the medical device community online.

We have two platforms, our website and our mobile app BackTable. Both are a way for physicians to share their experience and expertise about devices relevant to their respective field.

How did you come up with the idea for BackTable?

Once out of training and in practice, I recognized two things regarding medical devices I used in my everyday practice – there was limited access to information and overall paucity of useful information. My available resources were other interventional radiology colleagues, former mentors and device representatives.

These resources were helpful but limited, and in the case of device representatives, obviously biased. Equally important was how slow the exchange of information was. To gather any useful advice took days if not weeks. In contrast, I had instant access to infinitely more information about restaurants in the Dallas area than I did about the equipment I was using to deliver patient care. I want physicians to have immediate access at their fingertips to a wealth of experience for medical devices. That is the need we hope to fulfill at BackTable.

How did you come up with the name BackTable?

We workshopped all kinds of names for our company. Ultimately, it was my wife Gopi, an otolaryngologist, who came up with our name. She suggested BackTable. It really is simple but clever. Virtually every surgeon or proceduralist has a back table on which they lay out equipment for cases. There are so many differences between specialties regarding tools, procedures and patients, but every physician proceduralist has a back table in their operating room.

It is a basic commonality between doctors whose practices are extremely diverse. Most discussions about devices and procedures between physicians, scrub techs, and device reps occur around the backtable.

What types of doctors is BackTable targeting? Just IR physicians or other specialties as well?

I am an interventional radiologist, and our original website was targeted to my specialty. As we have grown, we continue to extend our network to other specialties. The larger our network, the more information we can gather. More information ultimately means a better experience for our users. With the addition of other specialties, we want to create cross pollination of ideas and expertise between different fields.

Can you describe what you mean by cross pollination?

There are many different procedural based physician specialties. Some physician practices are extremely specialized, but there is a lot of overlap between these specialties, and in many cases, overlap of equipment. BackTable seeks to facilitate sharing of ideas between multiple specialties which may have overlapping needs and/or devices.

Cardiology, vascular surgery and interventional radiology are a good example of this concept. A vascular surgeon or interventional radiologist might not perform a left heart cath, but all three specialties perform vascular angioplasty. Cardiologists and interventional radiologists often share information on devices and techniques when it comes to vascular procedures, for example employing radial access for arterial interventions was started by cardiology but has been adopted by interventional radiology.

Tell me about the feedback you have received from BackTable.

People love the idea and love the execution. For an online community committed to sharing experience, we need more users to share their experience. We have a handful of ways for users to contribute. A user can write a review, upload photos and comment on other’s reviews. We are working to increase the amount of content by increasing the number of ways users can contribute.

For example our upcoming MyKit feature will allow users to create backtable kits which includes every device they would use for a given procedure. This is helpful to share with other physicians as well as with the techs that help prepare their backtable.

Many of these procedures are being done by allied health professionals (PA/NP/RA). Will you be including them in the community as well?

Yes. Once we have set in place a secure verification process for allied health professionals we will definitely be interested in their feedback as well.

The escalating cost of healthcare delivery is resulting in more and more scrutiny of device selection during procedures. How do you see BackTable facilitating more cost efficient product selection?

I’ll give you the example of bone marrow biopsy needles. There are several out there. Some are significantly cheaper than others, but because of the poor quality of a cheaper needle you may not get adequate sample, resulting in repeat biopsy and overall increased cost to the hospital and patient.

This kind of feedback can help physicians and hospitals make informed decisions to decrease overall costs (including additional factors such as procedure times, patient comfort, etc.) and not just making decisions based simply on cost of the device. We want to bring all the information about the device to the table.

Tell us about the team you have assembled for Backtable.

We partnered with TEC, a startup studio, to launch our platform and company. They have provided BackTable with the technical resources to build the platform (UI / UX design, product development) and essential guidance in marketing and business development to help get the company structured and up and running, and keep it on track as we grow.

Our Medical Advisory team consists of Interventional Radiologists Bryan Hartley MD and Chris Beck MD, our Urology advisor Jose Silva MD, and ENT advisor Gopi Shah MD.

What are your company goals over the next 12 months?

  • We plan to increase our penetration to 20% of US interventional radiologists contributing to the platform.
  • We’d like to top 1000 reviews on IR devices.
  • Roll out the Urology, ENT and Interventional cardiology platforms along with app support.

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Image Credit: BackTable