Optimal learning stems from human interaction, which is the golden standard of training. According to experts, direct learning from an expert – being able to observe, ask questions, and collaborate – is the most effective and efficient method of training [1-4]. Individuals who train with and under the tutelage of expert mentors reach proficiency faster, make fewer errors, and perform consistently. Hence why the way we train physicians has not changed in hundreds of years, despite healthcare’s acceptance and adaptation to technological advancements.
Do you ever wonder why we refer to the rooms where surgeries occur as operating theaters? Operating rooms were designed to be literal theaters, featuring a built-in public observation gallery section. Medical students and other spectators watch surgeons perform surgical operations from the observation gallery. This practice carries over to today as surgeons have to travel to a live operating room to learn new surgical skills and techniques, giving up potential earnings, family time, and patient care.
As Dr. John B Hanks states “for the capable [trainee] to acquire appropriate skills that allow him or her to obtain expert status, the 2 most important components are a solid, committed preceptor and up-to-date technology ”. Technological advancements, such as in imaging techniques, have resulted in efficient changes in surgical procedures, techniques, and resource management. And advancements in virtual reality technology, in particular, create a more-focused, beneficial pathway for surgical mentors and surgical trainees.
Virtual reality was first introduced in the 80s, and it reemerged in the early 90s, blossoming in the last decade. Thanks to great advancement in technology – especially features like immersive stereoscopic renderings, a massive field of view, and ultra-low latency head tracking and its reduced price, we believe VR/AR is the next competing medium.
Based on this shared belief, my cofounder and I built a VR company that facilitates surgical training in real-time. MedOptic, our virtual surgical training platform, allows trainees to learn surgical skills from experts in their fields.
Expanding the observation gallery from the confines of the operating theater facilitates more efficient training while drastically reducing the risk of infection that comes with increased foot traffic in the OR. Instead of physicians flying to observe a surgery, they can instead learn from the comfort of their offices and homes.
In our first use case, we help medical device companies to remotely train their physician customers on the use of their products. The process is as follows: physicians sign up on our mobile app to learn innovative procedures, they schedule trainings with medical device companies, and once approved we mail them VR headsets. At the time of the surgery, they receive a secure code to log into the live operating room, via their headset.
Although our current focus is to help medical device companies increase the adoption rate of their much-needed devices – accelerating their go-to-market timeframe – and increase efficiency as a result. Ultimately, we believe our technology is capable of so much more. Immertec is creating a world where anyone can have access to the highest standard of care regardless of their physical location, economic status, or nationality.
1. Bonrath, E. M., Dedy, N. J., Gordon, L. E., & Grantcharov, T. P. (2015). Comprehensive surgical coaching enhances surgical skill in the operating room. Annals of surgery, 262(2), 205-212.
2. Boyle, E., O’keeffe, D. A., Naughton, P. A., Hill, A. D., McDonnell, C. O., & Moneley, D. (2011). The importance of expert feedback during endovascular simulator training. Journal of vascular surgery, 54(1), 240-248.
3. Porte, M. C., Xeroulis, G., Reznick, R. K., & Dubrowski, A. (2007). Verbal feedback from an expert is more effective than self-accessed feedback about motion efficiency in learning new surgical skills. The American journal of surgery, 193(1), 105-110.
4. Strandbygaard, J., Bjerrum, F., Maagaard, M., Winkel, P., Larsen, C. R., Ringsted, C., … & Sorensen, J. L. (2013). Instructor feedback versus no instructor feedback on performance in a laparoscopic virtual reality simulator: a randomized trial. Annals of surgery, 257(5), 839-844.
5. Hanks, John B. (2019). Simulation in Surgical Education: Influences of and Opportunities for the Southern Surgical Association. J Am Coll Surg, 228, (4), 317 – 328.