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This Company Used VR to Revolutionize Surgical Training


Kelsey Davis, Manager, Digital Media, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)

When Justin Barad was in medical school, he noticed an opportunity to improve how surgical techniques were taught to medical students. Combining his medical training with some groundbreaking innovation, he devised a technology that changes the way doctors and students learn and, as a result, has the potential to save lives.

We had a chance to speak to Barad about his company, Osso VR.

How was Osso VR first started?

Back when I was in high school, I was on a path to become a game developer. Medical issues in my family, however, led me to decide to try to somehow take my technical background and use it to help people. I ultimately ended up going to medical school at UCLA and stayed on there for my orthopedic surgery training.

During my training, I noticed that the way we currently learn to use new surgical techniques and devices hadn't changed in decades. Typically we are expected to practice a procedure once at a remote course and then four to six months later perform that procedure on a patient. These cases rarely went well. I was shocked to learn that, with complex procedures, it takes 50-100 patients for a surgeon to be considered "proficient." Up until a surgeon reaches proficiency, his patients can have a complication rate sometimes 300 percent higher than normal.

It was during this period of time that virtual reality (VR) had a renaissance with the Kickstarter of the Oculus Rift. When I put on the Oculus DK1, I immediately knew I had found an incredible solution to this pressing issue. I created the first prototype myself, and when I showed what I had built to Electronic Arts veteran Matt Newport, we joined forces and founded Osso VR.

What problem were you trying to solve with your technology?

Osso VR is a highly mobile, hands-on surgical training platform that can be used anytime and anywhere to close the course-to-case gap. Osso VR allows you to realistically practice procedures to compress the learning curve. This decreases both the cases required to reach proficiency and the risk patients are currently exposed to during newer procedures. Our mission is to improve patient outcomes, increase the adoption of new medical technology and democratize access to modern surgical techniques.

Tell us a little about how the technology works.

There are two components that make Osso VR an exponentially better training tool than anything currently available: our haptic-enhanced interactions and our proprietary analytics engine.

The bulk of our design and development work at Osso VR is to find the sweet spot between realism and usability to create an enjoyable training experience that is also highly effective. In order to do this, we employ a team of designers that work with leading academic clinicians coming from institutions such as Stanford, the Hospital for Special Surgery and UCLA.

We rigorously test each interaction we create to ensure that the "feel" is true to life. We then validate our content in studies with our partner institutions to demonstrate scientifically that Osso VR is an effective means of skill transfer. An early study at UCLA has already shown nearly double the performance scores in the Osso VR trained group when compared with controls.

How can health care professionals benefit from the technology?

Health care professionals are currently in a very difficult situation. The number and complexity of procedures they need to learn is increasing at an accelerating pace, and the time that they have to learn them is decreasing. Spending a day or two to travel to a course is no longer feasible for the average practitioner. Providers want to bring their patients the best and newest procedures, and they want to perform them safely. They need a way to learn these procedures without needing to leave the comfort of their office or home.

At Osso VR, we are turning the course model upside down. Instead of making providers travel to a course, we bring the course to them.

What role do you see AR/VR playing in the health care industry in the future?

Augmented reality (AR) and  VR are already having an increasingly significant role in the health care industry and will continue to do so. Exciting areas include therapeutic VR, telementoring, surgical navigation, medical visualization, patient education, and EMR-integration/virtual scribes to just name a few.

I encourage you to read my previous thoughts on the topic.

Osso VR is a Consumer Technology Association (CTA) member. Explore how tech companies like Osso VR are changing the world.  

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