Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and LA-based Giblib have teamed up to offer what the organizations say is the first accredited continuing medical education (CME) course delivered entirely via virtual reality.
The course, called Essential GI Surgeries will be available through Giblib's website. It will include 25 hours of real surgeries recorded in 360 VR (as well as in a traditional video format), with additional overlays like patient imaging and laparoscopic and robotic camera feeds.
"The feedback that we’ve received so far from our viewers is that this is the best experience outside of actual being next to the physician in the OR," Brian Conyer, CEO and cofounder of Giblib, told MobiHealthNews. "It’s kind of a modern day surgical theater. And because this is educational and it’s coming from experts in the field, Cedars has partnered with us to actually accredit the content as continuing education credit."
Conyer says this is the first of many planned courses. It will deal specifically with minimally invasive GI surgeries and investigating the pros and cons of laparoscopic versus robotic surgery for different procedures, a hot topic of debate in the GI surgery community.
Why it matters
Traditionally, CME credits are earned by actually traveling to medical conferences or to other hospitals to observe surgeons in person. These options aren't equally available to all clinicians.
"Most of our users who actually watch the content seem to be more of the private practice community physicians," Conyer said. "And when we interact with them the common thing that they say is once they’re outside of residency and they’re in the practice, they don’t get a lot of exposure to different kinds of procedures. They’re really focused on their practice. So this is a fantastic resource for them to stay up to date."
But even for surgeons who do have access to traditional CMEs, Giblib strives to leverage the advantages of VR to create a more fully-featured experience.
"We use Bluetooth lightweight battery-operated 4K cameras to get the best angles," he said. "Often it’ll be like the physician’s point of view, offering a better view even than a medical student at the bedside. And then in the video in post-production ... we put different kinds of digital overlays like patient imaging, and we provide additional information that makes that experience better than just watching it on a 2D video and it makes you feel as though you’re actually there in the operating room."
Having an academic partner like Cedars-Sinai is an equally important part of the value proposition.
"One thing we do is we work with these teaching hospitals or these physicians that are educators by nature and we have them talk through the entire case as though there’s a colleague there that’s travelled to watch them perform surgery," Conyer said. "And what this actually captures is the critical thinking, what’s going on inside that expert physician’s head throughout that experience and captures that narrative."
On the record
"Virtual reality allows viewers to be fully immersed in the operating room without having to travel across the world for specialized training," Dr. Miguel Burch, chief of minimally invasive and GI surgery at Cedars-Sinai, said in a statement. "This efficient, innovative technology provides an online, backstage pass for trainees anywhere."
What's the trend
Virtual reality's potential for changing the way surgeons train is extensive, and different startups have tackled it in different ways. Osso VR and FundamentalVR, for instance, are using virtual reality to create surgical simulators which are interactive. Other startups like CrowdOptic have looked at using Google Glass to record and stream first-person videos of surgeries.
But few other companies are offering what Giblib has. A company called Next Galaxy, now called CEEKVR, was planning to go into that space in 2015 but appears to have pivoted into entertainment streaming.
Meanwhile, Cedars-Sinai, a hospital famous for treating Hollywood celebrities, itself has a long history with VR. Cedars' Dr. Brennan Spiegel, director of health services research in academic affairs and clinical transformation, is one of the leading voices in the field of therapeutic VR and has done numerous studies on VR for pain relief in the hospital.