Opinion: Virtual and augmented reality can save lives by improving surgeons’ training

Opinion: Virtual and augmented reality can save lives by improving surgeons’ trainingOpinion: Virtual and augmented reality can save lives by improving surgeons’ training

Rapid advances in the development of medical devices in the 21st century are contributing to healthier lives, but bring with them a new challenge: teaching clinicians how to use these often-complicated technologies. Teaching them poorly, or failing to do it at all, can negate the potential benefits and put patients at risk of harm from devices that were intended to benefit them. A surgeon once needed to perform 10 to 20 cases to reach proficiency in a new procedure. But as complexity has increased, that number has grown to 50 to 100 cases. The existing system of surgical training is starting to show cracks, as up to 30% of graduating general surgery residents are unable to operate independently. Leaders in health care quality often look to the aviation industry for inspiration. It has leveraged simulation and other technologies and processes to achieve a remarkably high bar for safety. Though worldwide flight hours have doubled over the last 20 years, airline fatalities have fallen by almost 45 percent. Sadly, we’re not having the same success in medicine, where medical errors are the third leading cause of death. Can medicine replicate the safety success of aviation? Recent advances in virtual reality, augmented reality, and mobile technology offer the promise of accelerating the learning curve for new medical technologies. Read more: WATCH: He wanted to see his cancer from the inside. With virtual reality, he can When I was a surgical resident, I watched how dependent surgeons were on medical device reps in the operating room to safely use new devices or devices they weren’t completely familiar with. Several times I was asked to help an attending surgeon by Googling how to use a device in the middle of an operation. I constantly wished there was a better way to practice procedures before doing them in the operating room. During my surgical residency, I became involved in the virtual reality renaissance catalyzed by the Oculus Rift, a user-friendly virtual reality environment with a far more immersive experience than to VR headsets before it. I immediately saw its incredible potential to solve the training problem in surgery. Simulators are a way for surgeons to practice, but they are expensive and typically simulate only a single procedure. VR has revolutionized simulation by being more accessible, effective, and affordable. Its portability and ease of use open the door for practicing skills and techniques anytime, anywhere. All a surgeon needs is a headset the size of ski goggles and a motion controller for each hand. In order for VR surgical simulation to be accepted by the notoriously conservative world of health care, solid research must demonstrate that it improves surgical skills. Such studies are underway. Researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, for example, recently validated VR-based surgical training using technology developed by my company for a procedure for repairing a bone break. In the study, which was recently presented at the annual meeting of the Western Orthopedic Association, medical students who were given VR training for the procedure completed it 20% faster and completed 38% more steps correctly than those in the traditionally trained group. Augmented reality differs from the virtual reality experience by augmenting and overlaying the real clinical environment rather than placing a surgeon in a virtual world. There are a range of such technologies, including mobile variants like Pokemon Go, holographic headset displays like the HoloLens, and heads-up displays like Google Glass. Here’s one way that augmented reality can be used: Surgeons often seek the advice of experts when facing complex or ...
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