The Democratization of Surgical Simulation

The link between simulation and improved surgical performance is well established (1), however, here at Fundamental Surgery, we estimate that less than half of one percent of surgeons currently have any day-to-day access to surgical simulation.

The problem lies not in justifying the value of such training techniques but in the high cost of the equipment plus accessibility and availability of the simulation machines for those wanting/needing to use them the most.

Fundamental Surgery provides a solution to this problem, offering high fidelity VR simulation combined with unique haptics (delivering the sense of touch), using affordable of-the-shelf hardware. Welcome to the democratization of surgical simulation.

 Surgical advancements continue to accelerate across all disciplines and this continued environment of development puts pressure on the education and training systems. Surgeons needs more opportunity to practice and rehearse and the budgetary environment of all hospitals systems means this needs to be delivered at a relatively low unit cost. Quite simply, practice makes perfect and repetition fosters muscle memory. As Professor Bronek Boszczyk commented “training on the job with these techniques, is like learning to play an instrument within an orchestra”. The goal must be to give surgeons of all levels access to effective simulation that works with their schedules, to put quality simulation within arm’s reach of the clinical environment.  Familiarity and practice can and will have an direct impact on improved patient outcomes.

Undoubtedly the inhibitor to adoption is one of cost. There is no doubt that every surgeon would like to have the ability to switch into a virtual OR and practice or learn new techniques but the cost of traditional solutions quickly escalates into high five or six figure sums. The result, very limited access. Most medical professionals can not gain access to a simulator quickly and may have to travel significant distances. What is needed is simulation within (or very close to) the clinical environment. It’s not a case of a hospital having ‘a’ simulator, there should be a number delivering a range of solutions to all medical staff when they want to access it. But to do this, they need to be cost effective.

The Fundamental Surgery platform offers a solution to this global challenge. By combining an immersive virtual reality and haptic software platform with low-cost, off-the-shelf hardware the opportunity for real change is now here. A system that could be fully operational for sub $20,000 (at least a fifth of the cost of most existing simulation solutions). Meaning that it’s both scalable and accessible, delivering high fidelity (touch, vision, sound) and fully immersive procedural simulation. Richard Vincent, CEO described Fundamental Surgery as a unique training tool, and said that the business objective was to put medical simulation training within arm’s reach of medical professionals around the world.

The US spends $15bn a year to train doctors, and yet there is still an obvious gap in medical simulation training being accessible to all. Fundamental Surgery provides scalable, low cost simulations which in the long run has the potential to create safer learning environments, and ultimately better patient outcomes. Welcome to the democratization of surgery.

(1) Cook DA, Hatala R, Brydges R, Zendejas B, Szostek JH, Wang AT, Erwin PJ, Hamstra SJ. JAMA. 2011 Sep 7;306(9):978-88. doi: 10.1001/jama.2011.1234. Review.