Question of the Week

April 9, 2007


Trying to find a way for medical students to get experience listening to heart sounds, one cardiologist(and associate professor of medicine), thought of putting the sounds on CD. When his students pointed out that they didn't listen to CDs, he had to learn from them. Now the sounds are available as MP3 files that they (and others) can download to their iPods.

"Patients rely on their physicians to recognize signs of trouble, yet for common heart murmurs, that ability is only fair at best. Fortunately, the solution is simple: listening repeatedly. In fact, intensive repetition - listening at least 400 times to each heart sound - significantly improved the stethoscope abilities of doctors, according to a study presented at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting. After demonstrating last year that medical students greatly improved their stethoscope skills by listening repeatedly to heart sounds on their iPods, lead investigator Michael Barrett, M.D., clinical associate professor of medicine and cardiologist at Temple University School of Medicine and Hospital, set out to test the technique on practicing physicians. During a single 90-minute session, 149 general internists listened 400 times to five common heart murmurs including aortic stenosis, aortic regurgitation, mitral stenosis, mitral regurgitation and innocent systolic murmur. Previous studies have found the average rate of correct heart sound identification in physicians is 40 percent. After the session, the average improved to 80 percent."
Medical News Today

Dr. Barrett had an idea, and his students helped him work it into something that put heart sounds, medical students, and iPods together to create better doctors.

While this may not seem like an unusual pairing of talents, it took different people (with different perspectives) working together to create something that would help the most people.

There are other times when the pairing of seemingly unrelated talents works together to create more skilled medical professionals. "Fine motor skill/manual dexterity requirement The dental hygiene program requires that all students develop fine motor and manual dexterity skills. Those applying to start the dental hygiene program in fall 2007 and later will be asked to present documentation that they have participated in some kind of structured experience to develop these skills. Structured experiences can include:
* taking a visual and performing arts course off the College's approved list (for example SCPT 209 Introduction to Sculpture) that makes participants use fine motor skills.
* taking a course such as pottery, sculpture or painting with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts or some other type of structured art program.
* taking private music or art lessons."
VCU College of Humanities and Sciences

While most people want their dentists and dental hygienists to have good fine motor skills and manual dexterity, they may not have considered that having some experience with art and sculpture would help someone get into dental school.

Nor would many people think to look to those with video game experience when searching for a good surgeon.

"MARINA DEL REY, Calif. -- If Dr. James Rosser Jr. had his way, every surgeon in America would have three indispensable tools on the operating room tray: a scalpel, sutures, and a video game controller. Rosser looks like a football player and cracks jokes like a comic, but his job as a top surgeon and director of the Advanced Medical Technologies Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York is to find better ways to practice medicine. At the top of his list -- video games. ... Surgeons who play video games three hours a week have 37 percent fewer errors and accomplish tasks 27 percent faster, he says, basing his observation on results of tests using the video game Super Monkey Ball. To devise better systems for training physicians, Rosser and his colleagues brought together surgeons, movie makers and video game designers to discuss ways the three groups can develop better tools."

A group of people that some might not normally expect to work together were, once again, brought together to help create better doctors.

"TATRC [U.S. Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center] demonstrated a program called STATCare, a virtual simulator for combat medics that lets them bandage wounds, apply tourniquets, administer intravenous fluids, inject medications and make all of the other assessments they would be required to do in an actual battlefield. ... Another product on display was a system developed by researcher Walter Greenleaf that applies technology to hand rehabilitation -- patients wear a special sensor-laden glove and control a video game by doing exercises. In the classic game Asteroids, rotating the wrist moves a spaceship left and right, while making a fist fires cannons. All of that gameplay may sound like a waste of time to some people, but for Rosser, it's all part of the job."

While some collaborations work together to help medical professionals do their jobs more effectively, others work to create products that help patients with their recoveries.

"Dr. Sung You, assistant professor at Hampton University's Department of Physical Therapy, is using video games to make physical therapy fun.... 'The virtual reality is an interactive exercise program with a camera that captures movements of the participants and allows the patient to be emerged into the 3-D video game,' said You. The games include snow boarding, shark bate, step up/step down and soccer. ... 'Virtual reality is enjoyable for the patient,' said You. 'It is not perceived as exercise or therapy, yet you are exercising and having fun. Virtual reality eliminates the mental block of doing routine exercise.'"

Questions of the Week:
What unique skills do you have that you think could be used to help those in health care professions? What interests do you have that you might not have thought could lead to a career in health care, but might actually help you as a health care professional? What skills do your friends and family members have that you could see being used to benefit doctors, nurses, and patients in creative and unique ways that others might not have thought about? What other nontraditional pairings do you think could work together to create a better health care system (for the doctors, the patients, or both)?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions. Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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