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Media Contact: Sherry Baker 12 May 2005    
  (404) 377-1398   Print  | Email ]

Virtual Reality Training Improves Doctors' Skills and Patient Safety
Emory Heart Center cardiologist Christopher Cates, MD, is joining colleagues from across the nation this week at the Advanced Initiatives in Medical Simulation (AIMS) meeting in Bethesda, Maryland, where the latest research and applications in virtual reality (VR) training will be presented.

This one of a kind meeting brings together representatives from the military, government, industry, academia, credentialing organizations, and professional societies to discuss the state of medical simulation and promotion of VR training as a way to improve patient safety, reduce medical errors, errors, and enhance clinical skills.

Dr. Cates, Director of Vascular Intervention at Emory University Hospital and Emory Crawford Long Hospital, is presenting information on cardiology applications of VR at the meeting and he will also participate in the 2nd Annual AIMS Exhibition on Capitol Hill on Thursday, May 12, 2005. Honorary Congressional Co-Hosts for the event include Senators Harkin (IA), Specter (PA), Inouye (HI), Dorgan (ND), Crapo (ID), Kyl (AZ) and Grassley (IA) along with Representatives Kennedy (RI), Forbes (VA), and Norwood (GA).

"We are showing examples of the use of simulation in measuring physician quality and patient safety to members of Congress and their staff," says Dr. Cates. "We believe it is crucial that both physicians and government policy makers understand the potential of VR training in helping reduce medical errors that cause between 44,000 and 94,000 deaths in the U.S. each year."

Many of these deadly mistakes are caused by human factors associated with invasive, image guided procedures learned in the traditional way (with doctors learning new procedures working on patients with the guidance of experienced teachers).

"Advances in interventional cardiology and other minimally invasive surgery have many advantages for patients because they produce less trauma to the body. But the radically novel skills required for these procedures can make the physician's job far more difficult. The solution is virtual reality training -- state of the art education and training that allows physicians to create new and realistic methods of learning without putting patients at risk," Dr. Cates says. "VR allows for more than observation. You can interact with and integrate different sensory inputs that simulate important aspects of real world experience doing these procedures."

Dr. Cates helped create VR programs that allow doctors to learn carotid stenting a minimally invasive technique for treating potentially life-threatening blockages in the arteries of the neck that lead to the brain) on a life-like simulator until they are proficient. Emory has already trained over 150 physicians from around the country using this VR training.

"There is mounting evidence that VR training offers a better, faster and safer way for physicians to learn endovascular procedures than the traditional training route," says Dr. Cates. "It is important that both physician and Congressional policy makers understand the enormous implications this has for reducing the rate of medical errors, improving the quality of healthcare and lowering healthcare costs in this country."

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