We have previously explored the benefits of using augmented reality (AR) in surgical practices and medical education (there are a few posts about it, but you can check out one example HERE). These studies have convinced us that AR and MR (mixed reality) are going to be an integral part of the new era in medicine education and in surgical training, for a new generation of tech-savvy doctors. With time, this process will, of course, become easier and more efficient with time, and today we’d like to show you a new development in this process: touch surgery.
Touch surgery is a company established in London and New York in 2014. They launched the AR App of the same name for Android and iOS, meaning that it can be downloaded on most smart devices, and takes up about 65Mb on the Android. This app is a collaboration between Harvard Medical School, Stanford School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Imperial Medical College London and Duke University School of Medicine, and it’s pretty incredible. Full 3D graphics and comfortable touch controls allow the user to navigate their way around 50+ different surgical procedures, a number that has and is still increasing greatly. The premise of this app is to teach the surgeries to the medical professionals who download it, which means that it sounds like any of the dozens of surgical simulator games already in the smart phone’s stores… until you start the app.
From the moment you start the app up, it steps away from any surgical simulator game you’ve ever played. It allows you to customize options beyond any AR App that we have encountered–it even states that it wants to “speak directly to you,” and asks who you are, what your connection is to healthcare (for example, a doctor, nurse, dentist, or casual user), your occupation (for example, I’m no surgeon and the app adapted to that). Then, you can select the procedure that you want to learn or be tested on, and after a quick download and a very complete briefing, teaching the procedure from start to finish in technical language and with an astounding attention to detail. The only thing that we can say we didn’t love about the app is that it tends to be very automatized in some places, feeling a bit more like an interactive movie than an AR/MR app. However, that’s something that may be improved upon with time.
After reviewing the procedure as many times as you like, the app has a test mode. There, the app will assess your knowledge and performance as a surgeon for the procedure you’ve selected. Surgical instruments, techniques, and a step-by-step knowledge of the procedure are some of the most important things that it will ask you about, and when you’ve finished the test, it will assess you objectively and indicate your weakest points and what parts you may have missed or messed up. We have no complaints about this area of the app–it’s beautiful and a joy to use!
Touch Surgery may not be the perfect app for everyone, but anyone can download it and toy with it. The added value that an app like this one can bring to the education of surgical students is limitless, and it can also be used by patients to understand a procedure that they or a loved one is about to undergo. The app is not anchored to basic surgical procedures, and we have not reviewed them all (there’s way too many for us to do that!), but there’s a vast library from neurosurgery to plastic surgery to emergency surgery and anything in between. It’s hard to tell whether this app has flaws since there are so many procedures and, again, I’m not a surgeon. However, it’s very comprehensive and user-friendly, and we think that students will find it easy to use and learn from. It makes us wonder: what could be done with this app if the system was transferred to a more complex device, such as the Microsoft Hololens? Can you picture an AR surgical techniques lab powered by Touch Surgery and Windows Holographic? Well, if that excites you, you’ll be glad to know it’s already in production–and you can watch a sneak peak in the video below!
We would also like to let you know that this app is free. Touch Surgery is full of surprises! Their app is free because its vision is to enable global surgery, which is a beautiful thing to strive for, we think. We’re hard pressed to find a more comprehensive app that defines what a medical app should look like more than Touch Surgery. It’s a game-changer, and it’s still got time to grow! By no means will it replace your surgery textbooks, but it’s a great supplement!
If you’ve got thoughts or questions about this app, please let us know in the comments section!