Immertec, a VR surgical training company, was recently accepted to speak at the Association for Surgical Education (ASE) 2021 Annual Meeting. The event is set to take place virtually from April 29 through May 1, and will feature panels, lectures and abstract presentations and discussions on the latest research and best practices in surgical education.
Immertec offers surgical training through live, low-latency stereoscopic video, which expresses depth. The company was launched in 2017, and surgeons have found the technology extremely useful. Even before Covid, having more people in the operating room was considered unsafe, as it increased the risk of spreading infection to the patient. When surgeons undergo in-person training and are observing a patient from the bedside, their field of vision is limited; a live video stream from an optimal vantage point offers a better view. When coronavirus first hit the U.S. hard, many hospitals refused to offer in-person surgical trainings or elective procedures for patients, making Immertec’s VR technology necessary to keeping surgeons up to date with their training schedules.
Grit Daily caught up with Dr. Shannon Bailey, human factors scientist and lead researcher at Immertec, who has been researching the efficacy of Immertec’s VR surgical training technology. In collaboration with Dr. Stephanie Petterson at the Orthopaedic Foundation, she assessed the efficacy of Immertec’s Medoptic virtual surgery platform, and will present her results at the conference. The research consists of 4 parts to evaluate the training effectiveness: enjoyment and usefulness of the training, learning outcomes between Immertec’s VR vs. traditional equivalents, on the job application of learned skills and results at an organizational level for things like ROI and team morale. The research presented at the conference will focus on the usability of the Medoptic system for surgical training.
Immertec has been partnering with various external collaborators, including medical schools, hospitals and universities to conduct research for the validation study. Dr. Bailey is excited about the research because the scores can be compared to industry benchmarks and standards for usability of Immertec’s low-latency VR technology. She says, “We’re doing the work on the back end to make sure that the system is validated and evaluated from a scientific methodology perspective.”
Immertec has focused mostly on orthopedic surgery, but as their research provides evidence that the technology is user friendly from surgeons’ perspectives, they intend to look to other types of medical training specialties.
Dr. Bailey sees Immertec’s value in its low-latency live streaming capability. Trainees can ask surgeons questions in real time, and surgeons have full control over the technology, muting trainees to avoid distractions if necessary. Some training sessions are conducted on live patients, while others are performed on cadavers.
Dr. Bailey did not reveal all of her research outcomes with Grit Daily, as she is saving them for her presentation at the ASE Meeting on May 1st. Many companies correctly predicted the medical field’s trend toward virtual options before the coronavirus pandemic. Immertec was ahead of the curve. Flying surgeons out for trainings can be costly for institutions and dangerous for patients. While Dr. Bailey does not believe that VR training will ever completely replace in-person options for surgeons who are getting ready to work on live patients, she says, “It is useful as an option when you can’t be there in person, and you still want to be able to ask questions to the expert in real time and see information as if you were there,” adding, “It exists to replace some things but not everything.”