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Healthcare education goes hi-tech

Tagged In:  Nursing

Wearable tech and other innovative devices are helping train doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. 

In December last year, a teaching surgeon at BMI The London Independent Hospital live-streamed an operation using Snapchat spectacles – a pair of glasses with a small camera that records everything the wearer is seeing within 10 second clips. Initially viewed by a couple of hundred medical students on Snapchat, the video soon went viral on Youtube with over 100,000 views as of early February.

This is just the latest in a series of technological advances in healthcare education. Here are some others which have made the news in the last twelve months or so...

1. Virtual reality surgery

Observing operations by specialists is a key part of a junior doctor's training. Leading tech company Mativision has partnered with Samsung to make it much easier with the aid of virtual reality (VR) technology. Medical students can watch specialists perform operations in 360-degree detail via a Gear VR headset and a smartphone.

2. Eye-tracking for nurses

Used to test and train airline pilots, eye-tracking glasses use sensor technology and an embedded camera to track the movements of the wearer's pupil, showing where he or she is focusing their attention. In August last year a study by researchers at the UCLA School of Nursing found that the technology could be useful in the training of nurses, enabling better assessment of the trainee's clinical performance.

3. Simulation centres

In July last year, the University of Salford opened a series of hi-tech simulation suites to train the next generation of nurses and midwives. Designed to replicate the hospital ward environment as realistically as possible, they feature a range of state-of-the-art technologies, including hi-tech electronic mannequins which can breathe, move, speak, blink and even sweat.

4. VR nurse training

A team at Idaho's Boise State University has been developing an award-winning piece of VT technology which helps with nurse training. Comprising a headset and sensory gloves, the Virtual Reality Nursing Simulation gives the user 'hands-on' experience of common procedures such as catheter insertion, at about one third of the cost of using a medical mannequin.

5. The robotic rectum

Volunteers for rectal examination by medical students are, understandably, hard to find. That's why scientists at Imperial College London decided to come up with an alternative. They've invented a prosthetic device with built-in robotic technology which accurately simulates a person's buttocks and rectum, enabling trainee doctors and nurses to perform the procedure without a live patient. The device also provides feedback on their examination technique. 

The future...

So, what's coming next? Robots that help train doctors and nurses, according to MIT professor Julie Shah. In July last year she programmed a Nao robot to watch how medical assistants carried out tasks, then offer recommendations to improve performance and efficiency. In 90% of instances, the nurses accepted the robot's advice.

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