Cork scientists invent simulator for surgeons to cut errors by 40pc

19 Nov 2014

Minister of State Kathleen Lynch, TD; director of research, Prof Tony Gallagher of ASSERT; and Dr Paul Galvin of Tyndall National Institute

Researchers from the Tyndall Institute and the ASSERT Health Centre at University College Cork have created a simulator for surgeons that combines virtual reality, silicon and test dummies to cut errors by 40pc.

The ASSERT for Health research group demonstrated the collaborative technology at the Tyndall Technology Days event in Cork this week.

They have reported on the largest clinical trial of simulation-based training. Along with the Arthroscopic Association of North America (keyhole orthopaedic surgeons), they have evaluated simulation-based training in 21 separate clinical sites (including Tutfs University, Yale University, Northwestern University and University of California, San Francisco).

The results showed that trainees trained to proficiency on the simulator performed 60pc  better (that is, they made fewer intra-operative errors) than traditionally trained surgeons.

Increasingly, clinicians have less access to patients and opportunities to experience real-life learning scenarios due to the EU Working Time Directive legislation and an explicit patient covenant.

Preventing deficits in training

Simulators will enable all healthcare professionals to perfect their clinical techniques and prove their competence in life-like scenarios before carrying out the live procedures on patients.

This technology will enable clinicians to move from a time-based to competency-based approach to healthcare and combat the current deficits in training.

“The human simulator and technology-enhanced learning represents the future of clinical procedures and lifelong learning for healthcare professionals,” explained Prof Tony Gallagher, director of research at ASSERT.

“Proof of clinical competency through life-like simulation will be an essential aspect of surgical and clinical training, this movement will save lives and increase patient safety, which is the most important thing for all healthcare practitioners. Our data provides unambiguous evidence that simulation training will impact on better, safer healthcare,” Gallagher said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years