Current medical training leaves students, residents, and fellows unprepared when they first enter the operating room (OR). They arrive without skills, without knowledge of patient safety measures, and are expected to learn “on-the-job.” This increases the risk of medical errors and harm befalling surgical patients accounting for 250,000 annual lives lost to medical error and $17.1 Billion healthcare costs.

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a global patient safety challenge, “Safe Surgery Saves Lives,” to reduce surgical complications and deaths worldwide. The result was a checklist detailing steps to be taken by the medical team prior to placing the patient under anesthesia, before making an incision, and before the patient leaves the OR.

SimulatOR was designed to introduce students to the OR using immersive technology so that they can help prevent errors and improve patient safety via the WHO checklist. Using a combination of VR and AI, SimulatOR advances medical education by providing trainees familiarity with the OR – and helps keep patients safe.

What it does

SimulatOR uses a VR OR model to demonstrate the WHO surgical safety checklist. With the aid of AI and a “glossary” of medical equipment and surgical team members, it allows medical trainees to explore and learn about the OR so that they are better prepared when they first enter the OR.

How we built it

The Unity cross platform game engine was utilized to build and design the virtual environment and interactive AI voice recognition capability.

Challenges we ran into

Voice recognition capabilities to be interactive with our virtual nurse was a coding challenge. Optimizing Touch responsive gestures to grab operating room tools presented a challenge that was eventually overcome.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We implemented real-time feedback from our friendly competitors into the design, feel and interactive capability of platform. We even had real medical students try the platform without knowing our pitch and were pleased to see that the environment, feel and procedural protocols were realistic to them. Medical errors and Student trainee proficiency are two challenges with easy solutions. Our test feedback reflected overwhelming ease of implementing the WHO Safety Checklist and in providing a realistic environment to trainees that allowed them to feel more comfortable in that otherwise high acuity environment. Senior medical faculty who implement these protocols were quite pleased with the ability to provide realistic repetition and mastery of this basic checklist.

What we learned

VR presented a viable and achievable realism with responsive capabilities of the Oculus-Unity platforms that translated to meaningful learning. Students identified their deficits in real-time and learned responsively.

What's next for SimulatOR

With SimulatOR, the future is just the beginning. This concept model can be extended to innumerable other protocols within the OR, the ER (SimulatER anyone?) and numerous other sub-specialties. Beyond education of trainees & physicians, we see the potential to extend this to patients to better understand a procedure they will experience or procedure they will undergo to ease anxiety.

With $17 billion dollars and 250,000 lives lost annually to medical errors, SimulatOR has the potential to markedly reduce medical errors and improve outcomes in many areas of medicine. Practice Makes Better.

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