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Training-based video tool for surgery

A BROADCAST quality video-conferencing facility is turning the medical world on its head.

Medic Vision is using 768 kilobyte per second videoconfer-encing links to improve surgical training around the world.

Most other videoconferencing facilities operate at around 128k, resulting in a resolution too low for the intricacies of surgery.

With high quality videoconfer-encing, the master surgeon can supervise and instruct a student in an actual procedure from anywhere in the world. Altern-atively, the master surgeon can broadcast a procedure he or she is performing.

Medic Vision controls all of the audio visual and communications links for the University of WA-based Collaborative Training and Education Centre, which was developed to improve surgeon training.

It has invested $3 million establishing its videoconferencing facilities in the centre and boasts the Southern Hemisphere’s bigg-est video switching hub.

It also spent three years developing the infrastructure and relationships with the medical profession.

The company also has developed a medical portal that allows users to access both video and text-based information online.

Medic Vision director Ross Horley said other telemedicine models had been clinically based.

“We’re not clinical, we’re training based,” he said.

“We’re aiming at corporate level medicine at the moment. That includes medic simulation training for exploration and min-ing companies.”

Mr Horley said the company already had undertaken a number of live surgical procedure broadcasts and created CDs and videos of the procedures.

“Our main market for our technology is Asia but we’ve had interest from other countries interested in installing surgical skills training centres,” he said.

“There’s also been interest from other Australian states and New Zealand.”

The down side of the Medic Vision model is the low availability of equipment able to receive its transmissions at 768k.

Mr Horley admits the two problems with videoconferencing are in bandwidth and the cost of equipment. But he believes both are becoming more affordable.

Medic Vision is working on creating an online three-dimensional visualisation system to allow doctors to analyse magnetic resonance images.

Mr Horley said this technology would allow the planning of surgery based on that 3D image.

“The surgeon can dissect the patient virtually, working out exactly what problems they are likely to encounter and work out ways to get around them,” he said.

A similar technique was used in Singapore recently to plan what became a 90-hour operation to separate cojoined twins.

The company is also working with the CSIRO to create a virtual surgery tool.

and hopes to demonstrate its results to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in May.

With the technology, surgeons will be able to practise procedures on a “virtual” human instead of a cadaver. Given the body parts scandals that have hit various teaching hospitals this could be a vital development.

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