Project activities in response to COVID-19 emergency
New challenges related to the changes brought about by the pandemic and especially the consequent limitations associated with the pandemic period have been faced by the MMM project team in various contexts, particularly in the field of hospital education and practice (clinical activity).
While the initial design phase saw the final results of the MMM project, such as the VR lab and the 3D printed mockups, effectively create added value in the physical locations – i.e., in an “in-person” mode and in a traditional setting – the new challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 circumstance have brought about the need for new online, digital settings that would allow for the interaction of multiple subjects remotely.
In particular, the objectives of the new activities carried out by the Task Team and linked to the new COVID WP relate to the following potentials:
1. The implementation of VR lab scenarios and use of mockups via cloud platforms that can enable clinical colleagues (physicians, residents and medical students in training) to access digital exercises and simulations, which have already been obtained remotely from the MMM project, also via cloud from anywhere in the world. The work activities aim at avoiding long and difficult (during COVID period) business trips of colleagues, who will be able to conveniently get the benefit of learning surgical techniques and visualization from their hospital and/or university location.
2. The use of virtual reality as an alternative method for remote conferencing (Virtual Heart Team). This solution aims at offering speakers the opportunity to interact with organs and highlight their injuries directly with a virtual laser pointer. Another advantage provided by the activity is intellectual engagement in the meeting: thanks to the inherent characteristics of immersive technologies, participants will feel involved in the meetings and will not experience visual or auditory distractions from their surroundings.
3. The implementation of training phases in organ visualization and surgical techniques in even large groups (many observers with one operator); this will allow the simultaneous presence of multiple users on the implemented cloud platforms, capable of supporting multi-user without loss of quality.
4. The implementation of interactive training sessions (many operators working together with/without observers) in visualization and surgical techniques among different operators simultaneously working on the same organ or body region.
5. Improving the effectiveness of simulated surgeries (through practical exercises on mockups). Thus, there would be new scenarios opened up on the possibility of having multiple operators working at the same time, getting to simulate real surgeries performed as a team, where different people from different locations (but in the same virtual room) can perform surgeries on the same organ or body region as if they were really side by side in the operating room.
6. A web interface aimed at making the product usable by end users. The interface will include a home page accessible to all, containing information about the project, a software demo, and contacts. The team is also working on the creation of 3 user-differentiated substructures: one intended exclusively for physicians and two others for medical students with a purely educational purpose.
The still-existing limitations in mobility between clinical and educational facilities within and outside national borders in an era that is still emergent from a healthcare perspective compel adaptations that can become opportunities for new educational-didactic and clinical-collaborative models that can endure over time. This would allow visualization and surgical simulations in a virtual laboratory without borders and without limitations of numbers of practitioners present, even from different facilities and nationalities.