Kuhn 2021

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Surgical Education in the Digital Age – Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Robotics in the Medical School?

Kuhn S, Huettl F, Deutsch K, Kirchgässner E, Huber T, Kneist W.


The digital transformation of healthcare is changing the medical profession. Augmented/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) and robotics are being increasingly used in different clinical contexts and require supporting education and training, which must begin within the medical school. There is currently a large discrepancy between the high demand and the number of scientifically proven concepts. The aim of this thesis was the conceptual design and structured evaluation of a newly developed learning/teaching concept for the digital transformation of medicine, with a special focus on the influence of surgical teaching.

Thirty-five students participated in three courses of the blended learning curriculum “Medicine in the digital age”. The 4th module of this course deals with virtual reality, augmented reality and robotics in surgery. It is divided into the following course parts: (1) immersive surgery simulation of a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, (2) liver surgery planning using AR/VR, (3) basic skills on the VR simulator for robotic surgery, (4) collaborative surgery planning in virtual space and (5) expert discussion. After completing the overall curriculum, a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the course concept was carried out by means of semi-structured interviews and standardised pre-/post-evaluation questionnaires.

In the qualitative evaluation procedure of the interviews, 79 text statements were assigned to four main categories. The largest share (35%) was taken up by statements on the “expert discussion”, which the students consider to be an elementary part of the course concept. In addition, the students perceived the course as a horizon-widening “learning experience” (29% of the statements) with high “practical relevance” (27%). The quantitative student evaluation shows a positive development in the three sub-competences knowledge, skills and attitude.

Surgical teaching can be profitably used to develop digital skills. The speed of the change process of digital transformation in the surgical specialty must be considered. Curricular adaptation should be anchored in the course concept.

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