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Augmented Reality: The Future of Healthcare Professional Education in Asia Pacific

Tapping on the power of augmented reality, Ethicon’s ECHELON CIRCULAR™ Powered Stapler can train healthcare professionals directly through a mobile app.

When the ECHELON CIRCULAR™ Powered Stapler was first launched in India in July 2020, the country was well into its first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. With lockdowns cutting off access to in-person training for surgeons, Ethicon India’s sales team pivoted to virtual launch events and video calls to promote their latest innovations. However, as “Zoom fatigue” quickly set in, explaining the novel product, holding the attention of the audience, and troubleshooting became increasingly difficult, highlighting the need to enhance virtual in-servicing.

Recognising the need to adapt its approach – particularly for surgeons in India, Ethicon has developed a novel augmented reality-based application that can improve digital outreach of medical devices to surgeons and healthcare professionals by elevating communication and learning to a much more immersive level.

The new augmented reality app can be downloaded from the Google Play or Apple App Store onto a phone or tablet. Users can then pull up a rendering of the ECHELON CIRCULAR™ Powered Stapler and use the device as they would with an actual product in their hand by interacting with clickable hotspots that show the product’s features. The virtual device will, in turn, react to what the users do. To guide the user through, the application is equipped with voiceover instructions, product literature, clinical evidence, and troubleshooting information.

While the application was designed to promote the ECHELON CIRCULAR™ Powered Stapler, this highly versatile platform can also be applied to professional education. The pandemic has turned traditional methods of professional education – in-person settings with live faculty demonstrations, mentoring, and in-servicing sessions – non-viable. Travel and mobility remain limited in many parts of Asia Pacific and in-person training is restrictive due to social distancing measures.

By offering a virtual training solution, the application autonomises and democratises access to education for surgeons, medical residents, and other healthcare professionals who are working from remote locations. In addition, surgeons can learn at their own time and in their own environment without sacrificing learning experience and quality. Although the application will only serve as a supplementary training and/or revision tool and not to replace in-person training and mentoring, it is expected to help residents learn to use medical tools more effectively and in a more immersive manner, as well as maximise their educational experience, which will ultimately help to optimise patient outcomes in the long run.

At present, the team is planning to use the application for product demonstrations with mid- to senior-level colorectal surgeons to help reduce anastomotic leaks in gastrointestinal and colorectal surgery. However, they expect the younger, junior surgeons and residents, nurses and staff to use it more heavily for in-servicing. If proven successful, the team is keen to add more products into the application and adapt it for use in other countries in the Asia Pacific region.

As updating the app with new evidence and claims is easy once the platform is established, the app is also highly scalable to various stakeholders. Moreover, given its low distribution costs, the app shows the potential to replace paper brochures in line with the Go Green initiative. Currently, the augmented reality app has been launched on both the Google Play Store and iOS in India. In future, the team plans to expand their reach to other Asia-Pacific regions and hopefully, worldwide. [APBN]

Source: Ethicon