Some Medical Schools Using Computer Simulators to Train Students
About 30 U.S. teaching hospitals have begun to use computer simulators to "make training doctors safer for patients," USA Today reports. Use of simulators was recommended by the Institute of Medicine, which found in a 1999 report that up to 98,000 patients die each year because of preventable medical errors. The devices, which cost between $8,000 and $40,000, allow new physicians to "learn from key first mistakes without human suffering." And doctors "who get less practice on tough cases, especially [those] in rural areas, might hone their skills with simulators," USA Today reports. New doctors can use the device to practice procedures such as a bronchoscopy, where a tube is "snaked" through the nose and into the lungs. A computer plays the role of the patient during the simulated procedure, which "looks and feels the same" as an actual bronchoscopy. But it is "too early to say with any scientific certainty whether the simulators help patients," USA Today reports, noting that there are studies underway to determine whether they prevent patient suffering. Jacques Van Dam, director of endoscopy at Stanford University School of Medicine, said the devices "hold great promise" and could eventually be used to test doctors' proficiency in certain procedures (Davis, USA Today, 7/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.