Arnold Advincula, MD and Sarah Sherwood wrote “Augmented Reality, Other Trainers for Complex Disease” for the September issue of OBGYN.net. Below is an excerpt from the article.
“A four-year residency is not enough,” says Mona Orady, MD, director of Robotic Surgery Education at Cleveland Clinic. “I see women after they have had unfinished, poorly performed surgeries every single day.” Orady believes hospitals need to adopt stratification where they designate what is routine and what requires simulation and other forms of surgical training. “There are higher levels of care and, for that, high-quality training is essential.”
Orady encourages simulation training by incentivizing it. She sets the bar and requires passage in order to operate. Many other centers of excellence are now setting their own requirements. The Robotic Training Network (RTN) has unified robotics training and testing at over 50 institutions, with participating hospitals including Johns Hopkins and Harvard. The RTN curriculum, which includes cognitive testing and skills evaluation through physical models and simulation, is growing rapidly in popularity.
At Columbia, we have begun implementing the RTN curriculum on both the resident and fellow training level. As the Vice-Chair & Chief of Gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, I can tell you that the days of learning-as-you-go on patients are not acceptable. Surgeons must simulate to proficiency before entering the actual operating room.
Most hospitals that use the da Vinci® robot also use simulation training to some degree. This technology, created by Mimic Technologies, has been independently validated by research and academic medical centers around the country. Mimic has also recently developed training technology for traditional laparoscopic surgery that supports the surgical assistant in robotic procedures. The goal is to help all members of a robotic surgical team perform at a high level.
Mimic’s training director, Todd Larson, is a former Walter Reed Army Medical Center specialist, and agrees with Orady that most surgeons coming directly out of residency have not reached a level of competency that allows them to perform advanced surgical procedures. Consequently, they will seek Fellowship training or some other advanced training to acquire those skills. Mimic Technologies has partnered with the Florida Hospital Nicholson Center to develop simulation training to aid the specialist in safely acquiring advanced skills.
According to Larson, most surgeons who participate in simulation training note improvement. They are evaluated through technology called M-Score, which measures performance and provides an actual score on areas that represent their strengths and weaknesses. This type of assessment is meant to improve training efficiency, since the surgeon can then focus on his or her own specific deficiencies.
Once surgeons complete their training, they must meet the credentialing standards of the hospital where they are practicing. Currently, there are no universal standards or benchmarks for robotic surgery. Each individual hospital has its own standards for credentialing and privileging. There is an effort through the American College of Surgeons to develop the Fundamentals of Robotic Surgery; however, these standards are still in development. Since the Joint Commission requires ongoing professional practice evaluation to ensure surgeon competency, simulation can serve not only as an objective performance measure but also as a tool to maintain competency utilizing advanced technology, such as robotics. Surgeons claim that individual high surgical case volumes lend themselves to maintaining one’s skills. This is why objective-based simulation can serve as a great tool for skills maintenance and overall competency. As Orady and Larson point out, surgical skill is individualistic and skills decay will vary with each individual practitioner. However, by continuing to use simulation, a surgeon can continue to evaluate and maintain his or her skills.
“There is a lot of equipment in the hospital that has the potential to cause harm. Robotics is certainly no different,” says Larson. “What is unique about robotics is the means to safely acquire and maintain a surgeon’s skills through simulation and advanced training.”
Since gynecology is becoming more specialized, the need for advanced training is even more necessary. Mimic is also working on an augmented reality product that will simulate hysterectomy, coming out this fall. Augmented reality combines three-dimensional (3D) computer-generated objects and text and superimposes them onto real images and 3D surgical video footage, all in real time. The surgeon then has the feeling of being in an actual surgery. This accompanying video provides a brief example of how this augmented reality training software will work.
Larson says this is needed because the current controlled basic training environment is incomplete: “The current animal model used in training does not adequately emulate actual practice. What would be ideal is to perform the procedure in a simulated environment and be objectively evaluated on your performance.” Hospitals are constantly looking for the safest way to acquire skills, learn the specifics of the surgical procedure, and learn how to manage potential complications.
“We believe this is the future of GYN training,” says Mimic CEO Jeff Berkley, PhD. “Practicing surgery on animals will only take us so far. Through augmented reality, we hope to expose surgeons to a wide variety of surgical scenarios that they would not normally encounter as a part of the typical case load. This approach may help limit the amount of learning that must not take place on real patients.”
Berkley explains that it was gynecologists who were the first to make the aggressive push toward simulation testing to gain surgical privileges. This is due, in part, to the access issues of training in the OR. “Gynecology training is special—it is tougher to get to the volume of surgeries you need,” he says. “It can be tough to keep up those needed skills. That is why we have made women’s health a priority, because skills maintenance through simulation should play a larger role in gynecology.”