Have you ever thought about the complex communication required for a modern operating room to work? I am not only referring to communication person to person, but to ALL communication, both machine-to-machine, machine-to-human, and of course also human-to-human. This exchange and flow of information must be effective to allow for safe clinical practise.
In medicine the speed of innovation is rapid and advanced equipment is introduced at a constant rate. As a result, a variety of new technical interfaces now commonly act as intermediaries to connect physicians with the medical equipment and ultimately, their patients.
Generally, these interfaces are good news, since they allow the team to obtain more information about a specific condition of the patient. Automating routinely performed steps, which are prone to error when performed by humans, can improve global patient safety (see e.g. this study). However, without proper training to use medical equipment in the correct way and to decode the large information flow that comes with it, the technology can also cause distraction and lead to severe mistakes.
All hospital staff should have the opportunity to train on new technology in a safe, realistic and immersive environment, with the identical tools and equipment used in the same way as in the operating room.
Medical simulation offers an unmatched opportunity to accomplish this feat, as simulators themselves are essentially a type of technical interface. Endovascular simulators such as the VIST® line of simulators from Mentice, act as the technical link between the clinical devices a physician uses and how they react when inside of a patient’s blood vessels during an endovascular procedure.
Imagine how powerful a simulation session will be when the simulator connects to all relevant equipment in the operating room! When the new piece of equipment arrives to the hospital, it will be connected to the simulator and immediately used for immersive training in its true context within an existing curriculum. To be familiar with the new equipment before it is used by the team on a patient for the first time is a given. Since it is used in an immersive context, everyone knows their role in the team in relation to the new product when entering the operating room. The outcome will be less surprises when new technology is introduced and less distractions from what matters most of all – caring for the patient.
The future will inevitably see more and better developed open interfaces between medical simulators and existing operating room equipment, and work is already in progress to make this happen. In collaboration with manufacturers, Mentice simulators have been integrated with real equipment like auto-injectors, pressure measurement systems, and even systems for cardiac mapping and ablation. When system integration turns out to be too difficult or insufficient for training purposes, direct simulator interfaces can be created instead. Physicians can then control patient complications and vital signs from another computer or wirelessly using an iPad.
Whether the increase in human-machine interaction in the operating room will be altogether positive remains to be seen. But one thing is clear; the adoption of more technical interfaces in medicine will get medical simulation closer to a real procedure than we have ever seen before. Edward Fält, Director of Corporate Strategy