Surgeons have long been regarded the rock stars of the medical world, a high-performing elite with almost mystical qualities.
The first rudimentary procedures, done with little more than agricultural tools, were brutal and rarely successful but the pioneering spirit to push boundaries was crucial to advances.
Health tech innovation and incremental development are the key to progress and have led us to a time of great sophistication where operations, once deemed experimental are now routine tasks.
Few people involved in the first heart by-pass surgery in 1952, which used a device manufactured by the Ford Motor company, could imagine that the op would become a hospital standard within a generation.
But surgery still needs to evolve. The quest for surgical perfection and new physiological challenges will never dim but there is also a huge need to share the success around the world.
Health tech innovation provides the gateway for medical brilliance across diseases and the creation of a global hospital where you don’t need to be admitted to get treated.
Let me elaborate.
Sony released its PlayStation VR on October 13, a gaming landmark that will be a catalyst for a virtual reality (VR) revolution for consumers who can experience immersive action from a range of games and films which Sony likened to ‘a time machine that allows you to go to any place and become anything that you want to be’.
But alongside that comes a medical benefit with VR headsets being used in hospitals across the United States for pain relief and mental health. Doctors are discovering that the VR ‘escape’ acts as both a diversion of pain and a technique to switch off pain receptors and provide a lasting pain reduction.
Dr Brennan Spiegel, director of health research at the Cedars-Sinai Hospital, in Los Angeles, recently stated: “In the 18 years I’ve been practicing medicine, I cannot think of anything that has a more immediate benefit for a patient, short of restarting someone’s heart. I can see someone’s body language change within five minutes so there is a future for this.”
VR has been used successfully to help treat war veterans with PTSD and, as the headsets fly off the High Street shelves, further work is being done to develop programmes that have an impact across the mental health spectrum.
Clinicians have reported that some members of the ‘older generation’ are reluctant to engage with technology in a healthcare setting but using tech to live, learn and play is part of the millennials’ DNA.
Studies have shown that the influence of mobile phones and the Internet has created a hunger for bite-sized pieces of information rather than traditional intensive learning programmes. Digital teaching provides a flexible way to acquire knowledge and skills and presents us with a life-changing opportunity to share best practice.
A graphic display of its power can rarely be more harrowing than the British surgeons providing advice across Skype and WhatsApp to medical teams in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.
Acclaimed British trauma surgeon David Nott and other clinicians in London, Seattle and Washington are providing real-time medical support to inexperienced medics operating under dreadful conditions.
It provides an extreme example and away from the frontline, digital learning is proving a powerful tool and London-based Touch Surgery has developed a suite of programmes for trainee surgeons to hone their practice and pick up advanced skills.
With no classrooms and no heavyweight cargo of textbooks, it spreads knowledge around the world with a mission to drastically reduce the number of people who do not have safe surgical care – a staggering 5 billion.
Creating a global surgical community will empower clinicians to become better and to use those skills where they are needed most.
Touch Surgery has a unique profile. It was founded by two surgeons in London and fuses knowledge across medicine, software, gaming and programming to create effective surgical simulation packages.
Complex disease processes and solutions are analysed to produce an interactive 3D anatomical model for students to practice and perfect various techniques.
Experts from the Oscar-winning Pixar and Framestore studios are part of a team at 3D4Medical that includes pioneers in gaming and seasoned surgeons. The health tech innovation is the world’s first cognitive surgical simulation and the first academically validated mobile surgical training system in the world.
Procedures range from heart surgery to carpal tunnel operations and its Complete Anatomy Lab, exploring more than 6,500 interactive body structures, won an Apple Design Award this year.
Its companion, Lecture Builder, allows senior clinicians and professors to build lectures with a series of visualisation tools and information – the days of massive lecture theatres and libraries groaning with textbooks could be heading for the past.
These advances and many others demonstrate the exciting potential bubbling in the health tech market but it is important that they are nurtured and protected so they make a huge humanitarian impact for millions of people.
Health tech innovation needs brand awareness to sustain growth which makes effective communications a crucial factor in this dynamic worldwide sector. The PR message is vital in stimulating interest, educating, forging collaborations and ensuring that revolutionary ideas and technology reaches its potential.
The PR message is vital in stimulating interest, educating, forging collaborations and ensuring that revolutionary ideas and technology reaches its potential.