Have you ever wanted to practice intubations without the risk to an actual patient? Airway EX is a new, medical app that lets you practice virtual intubations with realistic visuals and immersive controls. Recently released by developer Level EX, this medical app aims to allow clinicians to practice “minimally invasive, endoscopic procedures of the airway” with just a smartphone or tablet.
Level EX unites experts in game development with top surgeons, creating ultra-realistic, virtual surgery mobile apps that allow physicians to master minimally invasive procedures in their specialty.”
Having taken part in many medical training simulations, both hands on and virtually, I have often noticed the outdated technology utilized. Furthermore, I have often felt that the technology used in the interactive entertainment industry was moving far ahead of that used in medical education. That’s what this medical app tries to change.
While many of the online descriptions of the Airway Ex have dubbed it a “surgical training” app, it’s really a virtual intubation trainer (don’t call it that!). You won’t be doing hernia repairs, lumbar laminectomies, cervical fusions, or brain aneurysm clipping operations as a virtual surgeon. Instead, you play the role of an anesthesiologist, pulmonologist, or emergency room physician. The intubations are all through a camera-guided, virtual fiber-optic interface, and range from straight-forward training cases to difficult scenarios from real-life patients, curated by a team of physicians and app designers.
Initially, users need to make an account to enter Airway EX. Using a Doximity account is one such option for user’s login. I really don’t like making an account prior to jumping into an app, but the process is relatively painless here. Following this, a series of simple tutorials are provided, with both adult and pediatric intubation cases.
To proceed, you will need to successfully intubate the patients using the virtual fiber optic view. It initially looks deceptively simplistic, but the litany of challenging cases will quickly dissuade you of that notion. These include both awake and sedated patients, vocal cord injuries, significant angioedema, infections, emergent intubations, congenital defects, obstructing tumors, and much more. Additionally, there are several game scenarios where you can practice wielding the fiber optic camera scope, including a soccer goal game.
Points are scored for performing as smooth an intubation as possible, while points are deducted for injuring the patient (jabbing their vocal cords, etc), delaying the case, and so on. Tissues react in a realistic fashion, and you can even obstruct the camera with patient fluids if you aren’t careful on the intubation. The visuals are very impressive, and it’s clear the team behind Airway EX has really pushed out an AAA title of a healthcare game.
Controls are handled through rotating a series of touch screen knobs on the virtual endoscope. It’s decidedly tricky, but the app walks you through it initially, then lets you loose on the many different cases available. You are trying to move through a 3D space, visualized on a 2D screen, and it really helps you appreciate the challenges such physicians face with the real intubations. Just keeping yourself oriented, and making subtle adjustments to the endoscope can be a real nail-biter at times, and kept me coming back for more while playing Airway EX.
To be clear, I am a Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation physician, not an anesthesiologist, and my actual experience with intubations was limited to a handful of them during medical school. That being said, the scenarios in Airway EX are remarkable in their commitment to realism, both through medical monitoring of the patient and through the graphical nature of the procedures. Take a look at the following trailer for the app to see the impressive level of visual effects during intubations:
Video link: Level EX :60 Trailer
I mentioned earlier the ability to earn CME credit through taking part in the cases in Airway EX. While the app itself is free, some of the cases are not, and others are locked until you complete initial cases. The same is true for the CME cases: some of the cases that are eligible for CME credit are free and others are not; all of them have to be completed with a 3 star ranking (maximum score) to be eligible for CME. Level EX has reportedly partnered with Global Education Group to offer the CME through the app.
- High-quality visuals
- Immersive gameplay/training experience
- CME earning potential
- Would like to see even more features rather than just endoscopy/intubation
Airway EX is a fascinating intubation training app that offers realistic patient cases and fantastic visuals. The app offers a tremendous experience on mobile devices, both for education and for fun, with the added ability to obtain CME credits.
- Overall Score
- User Interface
Clean, professionally-designed, and a breeze to navigate.
- Multimedia Usage
Absolutely stunning visual images used throughout
Free + In-App-Purchase options, offering something for users that just want to try it out, and for those who want to dive a little deeper
- Real World Applicability
Excellent tool for training and practice, as well as gamification of the endoscopy experience
- Available for DownloadAndroidiPhoneiPad