Written by Judith Riess, MTM editor-in-chief

The world of healthcare is drastically changing, and to follow my esteemed colleague’s Publisher’s Note from the last Newsletter, “It has never been a more exciting, challenging and rewarding time”. Admittedly healthcare is far behind the military and civil aviation industries in the use of simulation, but through the use of augmented and virtual reality and other technology they are realizing the advantage of having healthcare students and healthcare providers practice before they treat patients, perform surgery or provide the best diagnosis for a patient’s illness.

Dr. Jack Pottle, Oxford Medical Simulation and the NHS England diabetes team are working to train doctors using virtual reality (VR). Using VR headsets, doctors can now practice in simulated medical emergencies, learning from their virtual mistakes to improve care for patients in the real world. 

Dr. Justin Barad, CEO Osso VR, developed a validated VR surgical training platform and received $222,596 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for research and development to advance the company’s surgical assessment platform using automation and artificial intelligence technology. Assessing technical skill in VR has the potential to significantly improve patient outcomes.

Health Scholars, Dr. Brian Gillett, and Mount Sinai HELPS Center completed a study this July to assess the effectiveness of VR simulation training for assessing Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) competency. The study demonstrated that Health Scholars’ ACLS VR application performed similarly to high-fidelity mannequin-based simulation, was predictive of clinicians’ overall performance in high-fidelity mannequin-based simulation, indicating that VR can predict how clinicians will perform in real-life scenarios; found clinicians would voluntarily use VR every six months on their own accord for refresher training, and performed similarly to high-fidelity mannequins for assessing communication and was 83% more cost effective.

Lisa Ferrie used 3D printing technology to create a model of a kidney that could be used to help train cancer surgeons. The model could help surgeons hone their skills in performing a robot-assisted laparoscopic partial nephrectomy – a procedure that removes part of the kidney affected by a tumor. This type of training in robotic surgery is currently provided by VR simulators, as well as cadaveric and animal models that are expensive and not widely available. Miss Ferrie, a medical visualisation and human anatomy masters student at the School of Visualisation and Simulation, at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA), worked with medical experts to develop the model.

Industry and technology have both played a role in the changing environment of healthcare. Let us look at some of the changes that industry is bringing to bear.

In January 2018, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet announced they were teaming up to tackle rising healthcare costs, and in June they named Dr. Atul Gawande CEO of the nonprofit venture. In March the conglomerate got a name, Haven, and a website, havenhealthcare.com. Initially they will focus on the 1.2 million employees of the three companies, but the name itself suggest they want to team with insurance providers and clinicians to improve healthcare.

CVS Health has unveiled its new health-focused concept in the first store in Houston, Texas, which are called HealthHUBs, which are part of the company’s vision for its $70 billion acquisition of health insurer Aetna. In addition to the pharmacy, each store has an expanded health clinic, with a lab for blood testing and health screenings. There are also wellness rooms for yoga and seminars, dietitians and respiratory specialists in the HealthHUBs.

CVS and rival Walgreens are trying to build their pharmacies into healthcare destinations that can draw people in no matter what they’re buying on the internet. E-commerce giant Amazon bought its way into prescription drug delivery last year when it bought PillPack.

Walmart just unveiled its new health center in Georgia. The world’s largest retailer opened a promising new health care concept, signaling its interest in getting more into health services.  Opened in Dallas, Georgia, Walmart Health features 80 to 100 employees and is attached to a recently renovated Supercenter. Walmart Health gives patients access to comprehensive, low cost primary care in dental, counseling and mental health. Folks can also get X-rays, optometry and eventually dermatology. Walmart health accepts insurance and if you do not have insurance it lists the cost for the services provided on a board so all can see.

Editor’s Notes will continue to highlight changes we see in education, training and delivery of healthcare around the globe.