Markus Schill, CEO VRmagic

The Next Big Thing? Networking!

Networking, technically speaking, is about to take the benefits of VR simulators in medical training to the next level. Haag-Streit Simulation has introduced networking features for all of its VR training systems. We talked to Markus Schill, CEO at Haag-Streit Simulation, about the potential of networking and data aggregation for establishing new quality standards in medical training.

Markus, Haag-Streit Simulation has introduced the networking of simulators and the web-based VRmNet portal. What is the idea behind the technology?

»The idea of networking our simulators actually evolved when customers asked us for means to transfer individual training data from one simulator to another. Institutions who own a pool of simulators obviously want to optimize the allocation. Through networking, trainees can use their personal login to continue training on any available device. The training data is stored on a central server. Furthermore, through the VRmNet web portal personalized access to training data is now possible from any PC or mobile device. However, this is only one aspect of the new networking features. Networking has allowed us to expand significantly the range of available services – from web-based maintenance and automatic software updates through to comfortable user administration features for educators and online courses for students. In my judgement, though, the most interesting aspect of the networking feature is the possibility to aggregate and analyze training data on a larger scale.«

»Ophthalmology will be among the first specialties to network training simulators for a better understanding of how surgical competencies are developed«

What potential do you see in the aggregation of training data?

»Analyzing large-scale training data allows us to draw conclusions on how to improve and standardize ophthalmic training. We can make a statement on the average performance on a given task according to the year of residency, for example. We can make a statement on how long it takes residents on average to succeed in a given task. The data therefore is the basis for establishing sensible standardized performance levels. We can do research on learning curves and further improve the curriculum. The analysis of large-scale performance data will contribute to raising quality standards in medical training. Ophthalmology will be among the first specialties to network training simulators for a better understanding of how surgical competencies are developed.«

Do individual institutions have access to the aggregated data?

»All educators and trainees have their personalized, secure access to VRmNet. By default, all user data is pseudonymized. Educators only have insight to their own students´ identity. Through the new VRmNet dashboard, however, it is possible to rank the individual performance in relation to the average performance on a given task – in the class, the whole institution or the continent. We actually find that peer group comparison has a strong motivational impact on most trainees. By monitoring your own performance in relation to your peer group, performance standards will rise automatically. A precondition for comparison is a standardized curriculum, though. One reason why we recommend using the curriculum preinstalled on our simulators.«

»We actually find that peer group comparison has a strong motivational impact on most trainees.«

Is the VRmNet infrastructure already being used in research?

»The American Academy of Ophthalmology´s Committee for Resident Education is currently using VRmNet to establish a large-scale database of resident performance through a multicenter consortium. The goal is to provide national performance values segregated by postgraduate year level. The committee´s intention is to formulate conclusions from the data analysis such as recommendations and standard guidelines for most effective use of the simulator courseware. In Europe, institutions in different countries are also reaching out for partners to establish cross-national research databases. At this year´s World Ophthalmology Congress in Barcelona, we hosted our first Eyesi Surgical user conference, where the chairmen Jesús Barrio from the University of Navarra, Spain and George Saleh form Moorfields Eye Hospital, United Kingdom, introduced the idea of a European multicenter collaboration to network Eyesi simulators. Networking is going to be the next big thing in simulator-based training.«