Virtual Medical Simulations

Data to support the benefits in reduction of medical error and improvement of medical procedure proficiency has been hard to come by. Not because the advantages are not real and demonstrable, but rather because the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt virtual simulation and other simulation technologies.

The May 19,2009 article, quoted below, by the Bristish Medical Association is a great example of the potential of virtual medical simulations when tested:

Participants were randomly allocated to either virtual reality simulator training or to traditional clinical training. The simulator group received seven hours of training. After training, the registrars performed their first laparoscopic operation on a patient (under senior supervision) and were scored according to their technical performance by two independent assessors. Their operation time was also recorded.

The simulator trained group scored an average of 33 points, equivalent to the experience gained in 20-50 laparoscopic procedures (intermediate level performance). The control group scored an average of 23 points, equivalent to the experience gained in less than five procedures (novice level performance).

Operating time was 12 minutes in the simulator group compared with 24 minutes in the control group.

To reiterate, the simulation trained surgeons demonstrated an experience level equivalent to having participated in 20 to 50 procedure, while the control (non simulation trained) surgeons scored as if they had experience with less than 5 procedures.

How many medical errors would be avoided,  outcomes improved, hospital stays shortened, costs reduced and yes even lives save, if every surgical procedure was performed by simulation trained surgeons.