Pittsburgh specialists mentor international surgeons remotely

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center uses telepresence technology to provide live support for surgeons in other countries who have difficulty replicating complex new procedures.

Since 2005, its cranial base surgical team of three neurosurgeons and two otolaryngologists have trained more than 500 surgeons from more than 30 countries on treatment tumors and other conditions affecting the base of skull, nasal, and sinus areas, and some areas of the brain.

About 60 percent of those who come for a four-day course are international physicians, but once back home they often send emails seeking help, Carl Snyderman, M.D., one of the telementoring leaders, told Healthcare Informatics.

So the Pittsburgh team has twice walked other surgeons through procedures, the first last November with colleagues from the University of Maribor in Slovenia. In some of these countries, surgeons don't have enough cases requiring the new procedures to practice.

"Our goal is not to try to teach someone to land an airplane who's never flown an airplane before. …we're trying to get them to the next level," Synderman told Healthcare Informatics.

In a similar setup, a surgeon at Schuylkill Medical Center-South Jackson Street in Pottsville, Pa., recently demonstrated laparoscopic hysterectomies for medical students in Las Vegas, Nev., reports local newspaper The Republican Herald.

Earlier this month, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced a three-year, $15 million pilot to test the potential of providing long-distance specialty training and support to rural primary care providers who treat veterans. At 11 VA sites across the country, experts in 14 specialties will conduct 90-minute weekly training sessions for primary care physicians by videoconference.

That's just one new tech-based method for improving physician skills. Though still conducted on-site, simulated training improved surgical residents' performance so much that St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto implemented it before the organization published the results of its pilot program.

Meanwhile, UCLA found that neurosurgery residents studied more when given tablet computers tied to a library of resources including videotaped lectures and interactive teaching tools, including collections of surgical pictures and videos.

To learn more:
- read the Healthcare Informatics article
- check out the Republican Herald story

 

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