(Lauren Biron / Staff)
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ROME — - Future medical training needs for military and civilian doctors are similar; the list includes virtual patients and cadavers, haptic technology, advanced simulators for high-fidelity operations, and patient-specific sims.
This was the view presented by retired Col. Richard Satava, senior science advisor for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, during a panel about the dual use of technology in military and civilian arenas at the ITEC 2013 simulation and training conference here. Technologies for medical simulation are useful in both fields and could be programmed to teach doctors to treat the victim of a car crash or someone injured in combat.
“The basic physiology is the same,” Satava said.
He said the advent of simulation will allow “a revolution” in medical education. Where students might currently train alongside a surgeon and be given a chance to operate when deemed ready, innovation in simulation and more complete metrics and methods of evaluation mean students could be systematically trained to close to 100 percent efficiency.
Surgeons could also warm up with simulations before entering the operating room, the same way a violinist or an athlete does. Sims that used patient specific data would let surgeons run through a procedure on the very individual they were about to operate on, the same way service members do virtual mission rehearsal on precise locations.
Haptics would provide sensory feedback to trainees, and realistic synthetic or virtual cadavers would provide additional opportunities to train, without using animals or grandma.
Satava also painted the picture of a future of combat medicine increasingly reliant on technology, with idealized unmanned ground vehicles or aerial vehicles transporting the wounded to professionals while administering immediate first aid either automatically or through robotic devices controlled by surgeons from afar. With the rise of autonomous vehicles and improved remote technologies, it’s a futuristic but not impossible scenario.
Future combat medic trainees may find themselves training more on these remote systems, warming up with simulation before surgery, and using new tools that until a few years ago would have been nothing but science fiction. For example, Satava said, there is now a device that can use ultrasonic pulses to stop internal bleeding without invasive surgery.
“Star Trek, anyone?” he asked the audience at ITEC. “No. It’s the next generation of technology that’s moving toward us.”