A Vision for Using Simulation & Virtual Coaching to Improve the Community Practice of Orthopedic Trauma Surgery

Geb W. Thomas, Steven Long, Marcus Tatum, Timothy Kowalewski, Dominik Mattioli, J. Lawrence Marsh, Heather R. Kowalski, Matthew D. Karam, Joan E. Bechtold, Donald D. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Many orthopedic surgeries involve the challenging integration of fluoroscopic image interpretation with skillful tool manipulation to enable procedures to be performed through less invasive approaches. Simulation has proved beneficial for teaching and improving these skills for residents, but similar benefits have not yet been realized for practicing orthopedic surgeons. A vision is presented to elevate community orthopedic practice and improve patient safety by advancing the use of simulators for training and assessing surgical skills. Methods: Key elements of this vision that are established include 1) methods for the objective and rigorous assessment of the performance of practicing surgeons now exist, 2) simulators are sufficiently mature and sophisticated that practicing surgeons will use them, and 3) practicing surgeons can improve their performance with appropriate feedback and coaching. Results: Data presented indicate that surgical performance can be adequately and comparably measured using structured observations made by experts or non-expert crowds, with the crowdsourcing approach being more expedient and less expensive. Rigorous measures of the surgical result and intermediate objectives obtained semi-automatically from intra-operative fluoroscopic image sequences can distinguish performances of experts from novices. Experience suggests that practicing orthopedic surgeons are open to and can be constructively engaged by a family of mature simulators as a means to evaluate and improve their surgical skills. Conclusions: The results presented support our contention that new objective assessment measures are sufficient for evaluating the performance of working surgeons. The novel class of orthopedic surgical simulators available were tested and approved by practicing physicians. There exists a clear opportunity to combine purpose-designed simulator exercises with virtual coaching to help practicing physicians retain, retrain, and improve their technical skills. This will ultimately reduce cost, increase the quality of care, and decrease complication rates. Clinical Relevance: This vision articulates a means to boost the confidence of practitioners and ease their anxiety so that they perform impactful procedures more often in community hospitals, which promises to improve treatment and reduce the cost of care while keeping patients closer to their homes and families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-34
Number of pages10
JournalThe Iowa orthopaedic journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • performance assessment
  • surgical skills training


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