It looks and feels like a real person. It can cough, has a gag reflex and will even cry “ouch!” if handled roughly.
Meet mikoto, a next-generation medical simulation robot developed for students, young doctors and emergency care workers so they can get hands-on training without the risk of harming actual patients.
Medical venture Tmsuk R&D Inc. and Tottori University Hospital, both based in Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, have jointly developed mikoto, the name of which means “life.”
The mannequin-like robot is specifically designed for three tasks: endotracheal intubation (an emergency procedure whereby a patient’s airway is opened by inserting a tube into the windpipe through the mouth or nose); gastrointestinal endoscopy (checking the stomach and other internal organs via a flexible fiber-optic tube with a tiny TV camera attached to its end); and sputum suctioning.
“Due to rapid advances in medicine and medical technologies, the skills and tasks medical professionals need to learn have diversified,” Dr. Toshiya Nakano, a neurologist at the university’s faculty of medicine, said last month at a news conference in Tokyo as the developers unveiled the new simulator.
The move comes at a time when simulation is taking on an increasingly bigger role in training medical students in Japan where textbook learning still accounts for a majority of the curriculum.
Many medical schools and hospitals have simulation centers where such training devices are already in use. But the dolls are often sturdily built, meaning their mouths are difficult to open, causing many young medical professionals to develop bad habits such as handling patients too forcefully, experts say.
That is why simulation robots need to look and feel as real as an actual human, mikoto’s developers said.
“Young doctors used to learn the ropes gradually by observing senior doctors at work and then trying their hand at operating on actual patients,” Nakano said. “Such styles of training are no longer acceptable. Ensuring patient safety is a top concern.”