Saturday, December 06, 2008

When Technology Fails Technology

When Boston Scientific's SimSuite goes sour, it never ceases to amaze me how the media can still spin the event favorably for the company:
The virtual patient, "Simantha," had unexpected technical problems that short-circuited the presentation by SimSuite Medical Simulation Corp. employees.

Had Simantha been virtually alive and kicking, staff and physicians would have been able to try their hand at saving her life by performing a virtual cardiac procedure using new technology. Chances were good that she would have died during training in order teach the staff how to handle a crashing patient. None of that was able to happen thanks to intricate technology and its flaws.

SimSuite, the 35-foot bus travels year round and stops at hospitals and medical centers in the hopes of training the staff on the latest treatments for lesions in coronary arteries that are difficult to treat due to their location or size.

"This is a great way for staff to get hands-on training without a real patient on the table," said Chris Mitchelli, field clinical educator. "We can simulate an emergency."

Dr. Karthik Sheka, interventional cardiologist at PMC, was on hand to test out the new technology but never got the chance.

"All of the devices coming out now are much more advanced than before. It is something that you don't want to try out on a patient so this is a great idea to get the practice," he said. "There are always risks and complications with procedures such as this so you are able to play around with your options on a simulated patient.

Medicine changes fast so physicians need to keep their skills up-to-date. When Simantha is working properly, she is there to help."
Gosh, I feel the love for Simantha, don't you?



Andrew Garland said...

Is SimSuite a truly bad idea, or does it only have startup problems?

I'm not medically trained, so I don't know if such simulations give useful training, or only live subjects will do.

DrWes said...


The SimSuite bus has been around quite a while and most useful for the novice with little to no experience in the lab environment. For experienced interventionalists, I'm not sure these simulators add much, except a pretty price for their existence. The case selections are just too limited and the cases too scripted, in my view. Still, there might be some usefulness for ancillary providers (nurses, techs, etc.) to get an appreciation for what the doctor tries to do during these cases.

Clearly, as a marketing billboard, this bus is probably useful.

But like all things, we have to ask if there's a clear return on investment with this bus idea. Frankly, I'm not convinced. While it looks nice, does it really sell devices? I doubt it. And in this era of increased sruitiny of the cost of health care, this is one item I could do without.

Andrew Garland said...

Dr Wes,
Thanks for the explanation.