One of the major innovations in medical apps that 2012 has provided is the ability to simulate complex procedures on virtual patients.
This has a number of advantages over traditional preparation methods as you can repeatedly try the procedure without causing any harm to any patients. Examples of this include vCath and Cataract Surgery.
Now, a new app has recently been released which takes virtual procedures to the next level. Touch Surgery allows users to simulate common operations in a series of steps with instructions provided along the way. This technology is not new, surgeons have been training on virtual laparascopes for a number of years.
However, this is the first time that we have seen a decent surgical simulator on a mobile device.
Touch Surgery contains operations or ‘modules’. These can be downloaded for free and there are 8 in total covering a range of common operations such as cholecystectomy or appendectomy.
When you download a module and open it, you are presented with two options: Learn or Test. The Learn option splits further into three choices: Learn, Clinical or History.
The Clinical and History give a brief overview of the surgical signs and symptoms as well as the rationale for carrying out the operation.
The main section, Learn Operation splits each procedure into approximately 10-20 steps. These are the same as would be found in any surgical textbook. In order to complete a stage, you must drag the green ring onto the purple ring accurately. If you fail to do this then you are asked to try again.
Sometimes the step just involves removing retractors or suturing rather than dissecting. The graphics and animations are to be commended and it is clear that this app has been designed closely with surgeons. The level of anatomical detail is excellent and the overall perception realistic.
A very neat feature is the graphics animating as you move the rings together so that you can see yourself making incisions etc. This practical approach to learning the stages in an operation helps improve engagement and a deeper level of understanding. There are also lots of labels highlighting key surgical risks.
Once you feel competent and comfortable, you can test yourself. This goes through the same type of stepwise approach with a number of key differences.
For starters, there are no rings and you must remember where you made your incision and try match them up. Secondly, you have to choose which instruments you would like to use. There is no way to choose the ‘wrong’ instrument, however, you will lose points and be unable to move onto the next stage of the operation.
Finally, there is a gamification element to this as your score is uploaded and can be compared against the top score and the average.
Each module comes with different learning points. For example, the anterior approach to the forearm contains a section on the sensory, motor and vascular distribution of the forearm. There is a wealth of learning content available for free with this app. The level of detail is suitable for surgical trainees and will help solidify the learning and understanding of common operations.
- Innovative use of virtual patients to simulate surgery
- Ability to compare your score to others
- Interactive, engaging user interface
- Only 8 common operations
- The real strength of apps like Touch Surgery is the boundary they are continually pushing in terms of virtual patient simulation.
- The patients are often displayed as 3D models and are becoming increasingly more detailed and realistic. It is foreseeable that in the future, surgeons and other healthcare practitioners will be able to simulate all types of common operations or procedures.
- Furthermore, apps may introduce gamification techniques such as those employed by Touch Surgery to compare different surgeons skills and abilities.
Rating: (1 to 5 stars) 4.5 stars
User Interface: 5
Multimedia usage: 4
Real world applicability: 4
This post does not establish, nor is it intended to establish, a patient physician relationship with anyone. It does not substitute for professional advice, and does not substitute for an in-person evaluation with your health care provider. It does not provide the definitive statement on the subject addressed. Before using these apps please consult with your own physician or health care provider as to the apps validity and accuracy as this post is not intended to affirm the validity or accuracy of the apps in question. The app(s) mentioned in this post should not be used without discussing the app first with your health care provider.