Surgical Simulation & the Future of Medical Communication

Since its introduction, surgical simulation has become a central component of the way doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals learn and ply their craft.

But let’s begin by establishing a definition, as surgical simulation can cover a wide range of technologies and tools: encompassing everything from physical models of the human body for students to train with, to virtual conveyance of medical concepts to explain complex procedures.

For the purposes of clarity: we’ll be focusing mainly on the digital end of the spectrum. That is, animation to communicate healthcare concepts, or virtual reality to train future doctors, for instance.

  • According to Accenture, 52% of people – more than half of us – are “healthcare illiterate.” (as reported in Fierce Healthcare.) This speaks volumes about the complexity and profundity of medical concepts. With the exception of healthcare practitioners (who undergo years of training in order to wrap their heads around core medical concepts and procedures), the average person is simply not equipped with knowledge around these topics.
  • Equally, the doctors and nurses of tomorrow must grapple with an incredibly varied amount of subject matter: from neurology to podiatry, and everything in between. As a result, the medical training world is constantly on the hunt for new and efficient ways to educate students.

Surgical simulation – with its capacity to convey complex information concisely, and boost information retention – could represent a solution on both fronts.

Today, we’ll take a closer look at the digital forms of surgical simulation. We’ll overview its history, before exploring the ways it can prove useful to both healthcare practitioners and patients, before arriving at the universal benefits of this novel and dynamic field.

A Brief History of Surgical Simulation

Over the years, surgical simulation has evolved significantly, revolutionising both medical education and patient communication. Below, we chart an overview of its development.

Early Physical Models

The journey of surgical simulation began with physical models of the human body used to train future surgeons in complex medical procedures. Though considered rudimentary by modern standards, these early models paved the way for more sophisticated techniques; both physical and digital.

Advancements in Realism

As medical knowledge expanded, and technological capabilities increased, so did the need for more realistic, more ‘lifelike’ simulations. High-fidelity mannequins (such as those used by the University of Chicago), for instance, allow learners to practise a wide range of surgical procedures, providing a safer and more realistic environment for honing skills.

Digital Evolution

With the capabilities afforded by modern technology, surgical simulations have migrated to the digital realm. Augmented or virtual reality, for example, offer cost-effective training for future doctors via immersive, computer-based experiences. Beyond training, however, surgical simulation has found an outlet in enhancing patient communication. Animated videos provide a way to explain complex medical procedures in a clear and approachable manner.

Ultimately, the evolution of surgical simulation has been characterised by using contemporary capabilities to achieve more efficient, more effective medical communications.

As the world of medicine grows increasingly digitised, this dynamic field continues to shape the future of healthcare training and messaging.

Surgical Simulation for Doctors

In the digital age, AR, and particularly VR, training experiences have emerged as potential game-changers in healthcare education.

Through virtual reality simulations, future doctors can gain first-hand, practical experience in lifelike surgical scenarios, replicating complex procedures with precision and accuracy. For instance, research by the Royal College of Physicians shows that VR is effective in improving:

  • Transvenous lead extraction
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • Communication skills

Similarly, animated videos are invaluable educational tools in explaining intricate medical concepts to medical learners, as they effectively convey complex information in a concise and approachable manner.

Surgeons using AR headsets to look at a heart

Surgical Simulation for Patients

On the patient side, animated videos can play a crucial role in bridging the gap between the complex world of medicine and patient understanding.

  • Empowering Understanding: Imagine a patient scheduled for laparoscopic surgery. They aren’t sure what to expect – indeed, they’ve never even heard of the procedure before. But, in a consultation, they access an animated video that illustrates the procedure step-by-step. This helps the patient visualise the process and alleviates their anxiety.
  • Building Trust: A knock-on benefit of increased understanding is a boost in confidence. Rather than feeling themselves browbeaten with unfathomable medical jargon, patients are able to process their condition or procedure visually. In this way, they can more-easily grasp the intricacies of their treatment, fostering trust in their healthcare providers.

The Top 7 Benefits

Incorporating digital surgical simulations into medical education and patient communication has the potential to revolutionise the healthcare landscape, offering safer, more efficient, and patient-centric approaches to healthcare delivery.

1. Improved Outcomes

Through realistic training scenarios and hands-on experience, future surgeons develop enhanced skills, confidence, and proficiency. In real terms, this translates to improved surgical outcomes for patients.

2. Risk-Free Experiences

In the digital realm, medical learners can immerse themselves in intricate procedures without the risk of causing harm. This safe environment optimises learning opportunities and allows for multiple iterations, empowering learners to refine their skills.

3. Cost-Efficiency

Traditional surgical training can be expensive, as it involves the use of physical models and highly-specialised equipment. However, digital simulations largely eliminate these costs. They offer a more cost-effective and accessible way to train future medical professionals.

4. Strengthening Leadership Potential

Beyond honing technical skills, surgical simulations empower medical professionals to take on leadership roles. “Simulation-based learning helps people go beyond those skills needed in the operating room to also encompass working in teams, negotiating conflict, and making decisions under pressure in any setting,” says Dr Malek of Harvard Medical School.

5. Enhanced Communications

Effective communication between providers and patients is pivotal in healthcare. Animated videos facilitate clearer explanations of surgical procedures, empowering patients to form a better understanding and make informed decisions about their health.

6. Information Retention

Engaging digital simulations lead to better information retention, ensuring medical learners remain well-prepared and competent in their future practices. EHS Today reports that, strikingly, VR learners retain 80% of knowledge one year after training – compared to 20%, just one week after legacy training methods. Similarly, animated explainer videos can massively improve information retention, allowing patients to visualise complex concepts with clarity.

7. More Meaningful Relationships

By utilising simulations to communicate a patient’s unique situation more clearly, healthcare providers deliver more empathetic and personalised care. This patient-centric approach fosters stronger and more meaningful relationships; ultimately promoting better healthcare experiences.

A patient sat in bed with a VR headset on

Medical Communication: Redefined

In a world where the convergence of technology and communication is reshaping the landscape of healthcare, surgical simulation emerges as a transformative force. From its beginnings with physical models to the immersive digital experiences of today, surgical simulation has changed both medical education and patient interaction.

The benefits of digital surgical simulations are undeniable. Improved outcomes, risk-free training, cost-efficiency, and enhanced communication all contribute to elevating healthcare delivery.

Notably, simulations also foster leadership potential, honing skills with impacts beyond the operating theatre.

Looking forward, the possibilities are vast and, as technology continues to advance, surgical simulation will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in redefining the future of medical communication and training.

If you’re interested in developing a high-quality and professional surgical simulation, contact us at Sliced Bread Animation today.

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