Even if you read every book about any given medical procedure, memorizing the steps forward and backward, with a perfect recall of the procedure, performing the actual surgery is going to be an entirely different experience. The first time a trainee performs a surgery, regardless of how well they know it in theory, they’re bound to get confused, lost, anxious, and even scared, when it’s a real, live patient on the table in front of them. With the demand of healthcare professionals worldwide growing all the time, the necessity of teaching in a more precise and rapid manner has never been more prevalent. The students of today are the physicians of tomorrow, after all.

Cartoon Inexperienced Doctor

Because of this, researchers from Duke University in North Carolina have developed a training method that utilizes augmented reality and the Google Glass. It combines a video of a simulated patient in apparent respiratory distress, a mannequin that resembled the patient, and AR technology. The mannequin was placed in a stretcher so that the video could be projected on top of it, and care was taken to ensure that the simulation had the duration of the actual procedure from the physical exam to cardiopulmonary resuscitation and even orotracheal intubation. By showing the video from the point of view of the student, the AR technology is able to provide a better and more realistic training simulation. You can download one of the videos from the link below to take a look at this process.  


During the training sequence, the instructors sat behind a one-way mirror (think “interrogation room” style) and watched and assessed the students’ performance. When the simulation ended, students were brought back for a debriefing, where they were given the chance to voice their opinions on the experience. They also completed two questionnaires about it, as well as a final open-ended question about the program. The results showed that 80% of the students recommended the AR technology to be used for clinical training. That’s not to say that it was perfect, of course–there were mixed opinions in the open-ended questions, including some students that felt that the AR was “kind of distracting,” and that it might take a lot of getting used to. Many students felt the opposite way, however, saying that it helped them understand what respiratory distress was and how to treat it, something that might not have been nearly as effective with just the written protocol. 

Businesswoman with okay gesture

Obviously, we’re not trying to say that this method should immediately replace all written protocols. There’s limitations for the feasibility of it, and with only 12 students having tested it, the sample pool is far too small to say anything definitive. We’re excited by the high approval rating, nevertheless, and we think that with some development and polishing, we could be looking at a really promising AR device. For now, we at ARinMED firmly believe that AR can help to improve medical education, and we’re excited to see further studies about this and other AR training simulations. What did you think about it? Would you want this sort of program offered in your med school? Tell us in the comments section! 


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