Smart dummies, spreading

Simulation is becoming a trendy buzzword in medicine.  Technology has advanced to the point where a lot of medical procedures can be practiced on high-tech mannequins, or via computer simulations.  A few studies have shown better outcomes for doctors who trained first on simulators, although the evidence is still somewhat preliminary. I have a story airing tomorrow (Thursday) on KPLU about the mannequins.  (Update 1/15 – story now posted here.)

I didn’t have room to mention in the story some of the expansion that’s in the works locally.  The University of Washington’s main simulation center, called ISIS, is not only in new digs at the surgery pavilion.  They’re getting ready to add a much bigger simulation center at Harborview hospital, possibly by the end of 2009, and another one after that at Seattle Children’s Hospital.  Then, there are plans to offer continuing medical education courses using the U.W. simulators.

That should keep the U.W. as one of the national leaders in medical simulation (the top spot is generally considered to be Stanford’s sim center).

The U.W. will be competing locally with Swedish Medical Center, which just opened its own simulation center, and expects to rent it out to train teams from other local hospitals.

The mannequins have come a long way from the old Resusci-Annie, used for CPR training.  They are still clearly dolls, so, as hospitals around the country start buying into simulation, expect to see a lot more innovations.  (Good news for the Norwegian company Laerdal, which invented the Resusci-Annie, and still makes the most popular mannequins.)

Laerdal's SimNewB

Laerdal's SimNewB

Also, for a nice overview of the use of simulation to make better medical teams, see Tom Paulson’s recent story in the P-I.