Virtual reality augmented reality can improve 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.

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