Calvary Riverina Hospital trials new technology that removes COVID barriers to surgical training

New technology developed by Johnson & Johnson has enabled three surgeons from Sydney’s Northern Beaches to be trained by Associate Professor, Nick Williams, a highly trained bariatric surgeon, based at Calvary Riverina Hospital in Wagga Wagga, nearly 500 kilometres away. Due to COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions, it has been challenging for surgeons to travel intrastate for surgical training.

This cutting-edge telementoring platform features a high-definition video transmission system that allows surgeons in the operating theatre and surgeons watching on from a computer, to interact in step-by-step instruction, with virtually no delay.

“Nearly one-third of the adult Australian population is classified as obese, yet less than 2% of patients who are eligible for bariatric surgery currently receive it. We have an urgent need to expand the number of surgeons and hospitals providing these life-prolonging procedures, and cannot wait until this pandemic has passed to build those skills,” commented Dr Williams.

“Although telementoring isn’t new, past technologies have not been able to service the need for real-time transmission, which is crucial in surgery. Now, thanks to the technology offered through the Johnson & Johnson Institute, we can carry out highly precise procedural training, over significant distances, with a high degree of confidence.”

In a telementoring scenario, the instructor’s voice is heard in the operating theatre and a live video feed allows them to either hand-write their instructions onto the screen or use augmented reality technology to overlay hand movements or images such as patient scans that can be seen and replicated by the surgeons in theatre. Each detailed step of a live procedure is done in sync with the instructor’s guidance.

“Enabling teaching hospitals to adopt this kind of medical technology opens up a multitude of possibilities,” said Johnson & Johnson Institute spokesperson, Jennifer Spurgeon.

“When used to its full potential, this system can boost the success rate of difficult surgeries, while reducing the burden on medical resources. More importantly, it can be expected to eliminate regional medical disparities and contribute to improved patient outcomes. For a country like Australia, with vast expanses between cities and remote territory, the possibilities are almost endless.”