Mind If I Take Your Cyber Pulse?

Courtesy Karolinska Institute

Using a revolutionary simulation model developed at Stanford, a third-year medical student can point her cursor to the spot she wants to suture on a three-dimensional body depicted on her computer screen and actually feel what it will be like to perform a surgical procedure.

"We've devised a joystick that produces a tangible sensation, so that you think you are feeling the tissue," says Parvati Dev, MS '70, PhD '75, director of Stanford University Medical Media and Information Technologies (summit). "It's all virtual, but you can learn what it is like to pull tissue aside or probe an organ for surgery."

Stanford has been a leader in developing surgical simulations and computer-graphic models of anatomy over the past decade, and virtual labs have virtually replaced physiology labs at the School of Medicine. Students now can measure the concentration of chemicals in urine without ever leaving their computer screens.

In spring quarter, SUMMIT will test a new teaching tool that uses simulated patients. Developed with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, the program will introduce students in the Preparation for Clinical Medicine course to "Britt Larsson," a 45-year-old Swedish patient suffering from an undiagnosed condition. The would-be physicians will type in questions about her medical history and listen to her videotaped descriptions of symptoms, then perform a simulated physical examination and order the appropriate lab tests to make a diagnosis.

What next? E.R. docs for web consultation?