Use of Virtual Reality Will Help Expand SIGN Fracture Care’s Surgical Training
For 20 years, the humanitarian organization SIGN Fracture Care International has empowered surgeons in developing countries to treat poor patients with severe fractures by offering orthopaedic education and then providing appropriate instruments and implants needed to manage these injuries in low-resource hospitals.
SIGN Fracture Care has now teamed up with Precision OS Technology to add a virtual reality (VR) component to their surgical training, giving them the potential to expand fracture care to 5 billion people in the world’s developing countries (Figure 1).
Figure 1. SIGN Fracture Care board member Dr. Richard Gellman teaches the SIGN System to surgeons from around the world.
According to a 2015 report from The Lancet Commission, 40% of hospitals in developing countries provide surgical care for open fractures. The lack of access to treatment for such injuries, routinely available in the developed world, leads to a significant economic burden on patients and their families. There is an urgent need to train more surgical specialists to serve these regions.
SIGN Fracture Care’s model of educating local surgeons to treat patients in their home communities builds sustainable orthopaedic capacity and improves the quality of life and longevity for people in low- and middle-income countries. The use of VR education will help SIGN Fracture Care expand its training efforts: They will distribute wireless VR headsets to participating hospitals and surgeons and then remotely teach the SIGN System using the multiplayer option supported by the Precision OS system. Two surgeons and SIGN Fracture Care board members, David Shearer, MD, and Richard Gellman, MD, will deliver the training alongside the founder and president of SIGN Fracture Care, Lewis Zirkle, MD.
“As it stands, we have to spend several months a year traveling or flying surgeons to our headquarters to do training with the SIGN System,” Dr. Shearer said. “With VR, we have the opportunity to provide high-quality training remotely, which can markedly reduce the time and expense required. This has the potential to free up resources to train more surgeons, invest in manufacturing, and ultimately achieve greater impact.”
The collaboration between SIGN Fracture Care and Precision OS recognizes the growing importance and use of VR for physician training, specifically in orthopaedic surgery. Compared with conventional training modalities, virtual and augmented reality impart a new depth of contextual learning by improving understanding, technical skills, and surgical readiness. Virtual reality surgical training introduces a new era of on-demand training that is cost-effective and scalable.
Through VR training and education, surgeons will virtually practice and learn how to perform implant procedures as many times as needed to acquire critical skills and confidence. This breakthrough in surgical training is especially important to SIGN Fracture Care, since new surgeons must train with an experienced SIGN surgeon before the organization donates implants or instruments. SIGN Fracture Care will now have the ability to use the data gathered by the Precision OS system to monitor and track surgeon progress.
More information on SIGN Fracture Care International can be found here.