Touch Surgery: The Flight Simulator of Medical Operations

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At the BDL Accelerate 2014 two-day conference, plastic surgeon Dr. Jean Nehme gave a presentation about an app he co-founded: Touch Surgery. By visually showing doctors (and med students) surgeries step-by-step, they can learn about the process through interactive diagrams of a digital patient rather than read it from a book, wait for a cadaver, or practice on a living patient. It also allows for the patients to understand procedures and what would happen to them if they were to undergo a surgery of some kind. After all, when you have all the information available on the internet, you end up going to Google for medical answers…which is a huge mistake. Touch Surgery provides you with accurate information from credible sources and can show you what will happen by mapping out the entire operation in detail.

It’s got two phases: learning and testing. Learning comes with instructions as the user is taught a procedure with 3D simulations and testing comes without the instructions. And get this, the app is for FREE because, as Dr. Nehme put it, this is the age of the knowledge economy and information should be open and shared.

This is a great use of technology and I can imagine many pre-med students (and med students) using this as a new way to review material and train your brain. When it comes to operating, Dr. Nehme said, “it’s about 75% decision making and 25% technical skill.” The interactive method enables a physician a chance to practice and, thus, be able to operate without having to waste precious time and energy figuring out what the next step is. You eliminate the decision-making pauses and increase efficiency without using up physical resources or risking anyone’s life. The app also indicates things to look out for when someone’s under the knife (like important arteries).

Clearly, this doesn’t rule out shadowing and actual rounds at the hospital. All surgeons need to learn technique and IRL skills. Plus, not all medical situations are predictable and not all patients have a 3D model’s anatomy. There are unexpected complications and specifics that go into each case; however, Touch Surgery is still an excellent app to use when learning the ABC’s of an appendectomy, for example.

THE EXPERTISE
The app is created by practicing surgeons so you know it’s got the doctor’s seal of approval. Since it’s an app for smartphones, it can constantly be updated with new discoveries, experiences from numerous sources, and techniques meaning that it will be cutting edge (no pun intended), unlike an old textbook or an outdated resident. The procedures are downloadable so the possibilities are endless in terms of variety and inventory.

TEAMING UP WITH OCULUS RIFT
The learning isn’t restricted to your fingertips. There are plans to incorporate Oculus Rift headsets into the existing app’s functionality. The virtual reality device would allow for users to enter an operating room and perform a surgery as if it were actually happening. #nerdilicious

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