Mimic Technologies Blog


Improved Training Is Key to Better Outcomes for Robotic Surgery

Robotic Surgery Simulator

The data is in! A new study demonstrates that surgeons who followed its training protocol on a simulator perform at a much higher level than those who use the more traditional means of training for the da Vinci robot. (Photo: Florida Hospital Nicholson Center)

The following article written by Sarah Sherwood was published on OBGYN.Net

da Vinci training is taking on new meaning. For those who prefer using the robot over traditional laparoscopic surgery, the news over the past year has been less than positive. Unreported adverse effects, the cost of the robot, and doubts about surgical skill have been a concern to hospitals, medical professionals, and patients who have read negative reports.

Surgeons who have seen the benefits of da Vinci have been hoping for new studies that would showcase the advantages they claim to see firsthand, studies that prove that training surgeons results in measurably better outcomes. Well, now the data is in. Just last month, a new study out of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Morristown Medical Center, called “the Morristown Protocol,” demonstrates that surgeons who followed its training protocol on a simulator perform at a much higher level than those who use the more traditional means of training for the da Vinci robot.

The study is the very first trial of a gynecological robotic simulation protocol that shows results in a live surgical environment. It also shows measurable improvement in clinical competency with live patients.

Arnold Advincula, MD

“With this study, we know that we can train on a simulator and reach a high level of proficiency without sacrificing an animal,” says Arnold Advincula, MD.

“Proficiency is something every novice robotic surgeon is looking for,” says study leader Patrick Culligan, MD, FACOG, FACS, division and fellowship director, Atlantic Urogynecology Associates, Morristown Medical Center. “Our study has found that surgeons can become ready much more quickly by using the simulator, potentially saving time, blood loss, and costs for each hospital robotic program.”

Arnold Advincula, MD, vice-Chair of Women’s Health & Chief of Gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, says that this is common sense—there is no question that training for the da Vinci is required. “Why would I want to have surgery with someone who isn’t ready? Why would I want anything other than an excellent surgeon doing my surgery? Either we’re excellent or we’re out.”

Since thousands of da Vinci robots have been purchased, the questions hospital administrators have been asking have to do with what kind of robotic training is necessary, how much is needed, and in what kind of setting.

robotic surgery training

“We developed this simulation technology because we felt surgeons need easily accessible training outside of the operating room so that they can become comfortable and confident when using the robot” says Jeff Berkley, founder and CEO of Mimic Technologies, the company that designed the training platform for the da Vinci robot used in the study.

The best type of training is also critiqued by the new study. “The current model for getting surgeons ready for surgery is a broken model,” Advincula insists. “But with this study, we know that we can train on a simulator and reach a high level of proficiency without sacrificing an animal. We also know that we can now do away with what is not working.”

The study shows that surgeons begin at different levels, and it may take a different path of commitments to gain competence on the robot. In other words, it proves that some surgeons need to work harder than others to gain proficiency. Some understand the mechanics of the robot right away, while others need more time on the simulator.

A Methodology That Stands Out

We have not seen a model showing competence in live surgery because such a model is logistically difficult, requiring necessary attention to scheduling, time, and effort. Culligan’s commitment to solving the question is appreciated by his peers.

“This is the first study in gynecology that asks if simulation really improves performance in live surgery,” says Paul Tulikangas, MD, FACOG, FACS, an ob/gyn and urogynecologist affiliated with the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, who has adopted the new findings into his program. “Pat took it further than anyone when looking at expertise. He asked, ‘We think you’re better, but we don’t know for sure, so let’s examine live surgeries and see if the simulation program really improved performance.’”

What distinguishes this paper from previous studies is that it more carefully evaluates and then separates the various skill levels among the surgeons. “We used this study to set minimum skill levels that must be met before operating on live patients. This is important because surgeons develop their skills at different rates,” says Tulikangas. But in this latest study, the control group was experienced in robotics.

Surgeons who reviewed the study say it is the methodology that is different this time, because subjects are separated by skill level, which was not done in previous studies, such as the controversial 2013 JAMA study, which concluded that the surgical outcomes don’t justify the cost of the surgical robot.

John Lenihan, MD, who has publicly challenged studies based on poor methodologies, is also now using the Morristown protocol for new surgeons. He says the recent studies showing problems with the robot when compared with traditional laparoscopic surgery have been blown out of proportion. His remarks echo those of others who prefer the robot to standard laparoscopic surgery. “The da Vinci robot is not the problem,” he says. “Many of us have reviewed the literature. The number one cause of problems with the robot has to do with surgeons doing surgeries that they have not yet acquired the skills to do.” He claims that some surgeons have a lack of respect for the need for training in general.

This time, board-certified laparoscopic surgeons who had no prior experience with robotic surgery were, after the training, able to meet and even exceed the rigorous requirements of the study set by a team of experienced robotic surgeons who, according to researchers, averaged over 75 robotic cases each year. Study participants required between eight and 40 hours of simulation training to achieve the required benchmarks.

Culligan’s study involved 14 ob/gyns and two sets of comparative benchmarks. Its “expert surgeons” each performed supracervical hysterectomies, as did a group of “control surgeons.” The control group had full robotic hospital privileges but was not averaging more than two cases per month and had not trained on the simulator. Operating time, estimated blood loss, and a blinded skill assessment of videos were compared using t-tests for all cases across the three surgical groups.


Surgeons engaging in their first-ever robotic surgery, who used the training simulator, had a much better outcome than the control group, the investigators found. Compared with the control group, the surgeons trained with simulation completed their cases approximately 33% faster, had less blood loss, and scored better during the blind video review. Not only did the simulation-trained surgeons achieve the benchmarks set by the experts, they did so quickly. Each surgeon was required to reach expert status on the simulator before they could move to performing a human hysterectomy.

Surgeon Comfort With the Robot

Champions of the robot want it to be available to surgeons because they believe that they should use the tools they like best. “We developed this simulation technology because we felt surgeons need easily accessible training outside of the operating room so that they can become comfortable and confident when using the robot” says Jeff Berkley, founder and CEO of Mimic Technologies, the company that designed the training platform for the da Vinci robot used in the study.

“The da Vinci robot is an enabling technology that allows surgeons to achieve expert levels of performance faster than with traditional laparoscopic surgery. This said, there is still a learning curve, and it is better to start climbing it before operating on patients.” Many surgeons believe that the robot is worth the cost if surgical outcomes are positive.

Does that mean we should allow each surgeon to operate using the tools that help he or she perform best regardless of cost? “The way I like to operate, with the robot or without, definitely plays a role in how surgery is performed,” says Tulikangas. But he insists that one of the important criteria that drive these decisions is cost data: “Quality outcomes are so important, but so is cost.”

Lenihan agrees that surgeons need to be honest with themselves and assess their own skills. “Not every surgeon can do every surgery.” Instead, because of overwhelming evidence in favor of patient safety, the goal for any surgeon should be a minimally invasive solution for the patient, a method for resolving the issue in the most expeditious way. After all, there are many ways to perform surgery. Lenihan says we need to rethink who is doing surgery, and how they are trained and evaluated. With fewer errors, we can be much more cost effective—and a lot safer.

The future of surgery is using a new method of training: group practice through simulation. Teamwork itself is new. Innovative studies such as Culligan’s will help pave the way for a group effort regarding safety and risk management around robotic surgery.

Tulikangas says they have incorporated the protocol into their training program, using Mimic’s technology. If a surgeon is doing a low volume of surgeries, he or she is now required to engage in the simulation training—and this is because of the study. “It’s a study a lot of people thought about doing. We’re very fortunate that Pat had the resources and commitment to do it.”


Leave a Comment »

SOLD OUT! Robotic Surgery Hands-on-training courses at ESU/ERUS 2014

EAU Stockholm

This year’s 29th Annual EAU Conference will be held in Stockholm.

The European School of Urology (ESU) and the EAU Robotic Urology Section (ERUS) are offering intensive hands-on training courses during the annual meeting in Stockholm this Sunday, April 13 and Monday, April 14. These will be the 3rd courses MimicMED has developed in conjunction with EAU.

Courses are limited to 6 participants and allow hands-on training using Mimic’s dV-Trainer, the robotic surgery simulator for the da Vinci Si Surgical System, and  serve as an introductory level course.

Mimic’s proprietary MSim™ platform powers the exercises available on the dV-Trainer, providing the most realistic and life-like simulation available.

For objective performance evaluation, participants will benefit from MScore™. Built-in to the dV-Trainer, MScore incorporates experienced surgeon data to establish proficiency-based scoring baselines.

robotic surgery simulator

Participants will get hands-on experience with the dV-Trainer, the robotic surgery simulator for the da Vinci Si Surgical System

The main aims of these 90 minutes courses include improving the participants´ control-skills and hand-eye-coordination, as well as an objective benchmarking of console performance and an introduction into standardized surgical steps in robot-assisted procedures. Therefore, each course is limited to the small number of 6 participants, to facilitate an optimal training setting with only 2 participants per faculty.

The next courses will be offered at ERUS in Amsterdam September 17-19. Stay tuned for details.

Leave a Comment »

Opportunity for RN First Assistants to Experience new Simulation-based Training at 2014 AORN Surgical Conference & Expo

RNFA simulation training

Now, for the first time, RNFAs can use simulation training to develop skills specific to their role in robotic surgery.

By Todd Larson, RN, BSN, MSIT, CNOR and Director of MimicMED

Many RNFAs have undergone training that focuses on hand eye coordination and psychomotor skills in a lab setting using dry lab models and being subjectively evaluated. This is commonplace not only in advanced practice nursing, but in medicine as well. The Halstedian Apprenticeship model (see one, do one, teach one) has long been the model for training surgeons. It is no surprise that institutions that facilitate RNFA Programs have adopted this model. So, how can one train effectively without using dry lab models, endoscopic box trainers, and products from the local butcher or grocery store?

That’s where the new Xperience Team Trainer comes in. This new component  connects to the dV-Trainer® simulator and features two movable laparoscopic tool ports with force feedback capability. It enables the first assistant to join the console side surgeon in simulation training outside of the OR – when and where it’s most beneficial.

Until now, no simulation technology existed for the first assistant to develop skills specific to their role in robotic surgery. Used in conjunction with the dV-Trainer® simulator, the Xperience Team Trainer brings state-of-the-art training to the first assistant outside of the OR.

robotic surgery training

With the surgeon at the dV-Trainer while the first assistant operates the Xperience Team Trainer, the exercises build teamwork and synchronization for common maneuvers such as needle passing, tissue retraction and clip application.

Advances in technology in virtual reality have allowed surgeons to train safely utilizing a platform that resembles a video game. The big difference is that this technology is more realistic than a dry lab model and can objectively evaluate ones performance. This feedback is given immediately at the completion of the exercise and does not require a proctor to complete. This same technology allows the RNFA not only to develop skills safely, but is proving to be an effective teaching method in developing competency.

Simulation-based learning is beginning to become more common in medicine and surgery. This technology allows our healthcare providers to safely acquire skills, improve their performance, and maintain their competency while enhancing patient safety. For the RNFA, this technology can provide a means to learn psychomotor skills, develop teamwork with the surgeon, and enhance critical thinking skills.

RN First Assistants are encouraged to stop by the Mimic Technologies booth during this year’s AORN Surgical Expo March 30-April 2 in Chicago to test and refine skills utilizing Mimic’s new simulation technology, Xperience Team Trainer.

Want more information on Xperience Team Trainer?
Download brochure and see videos of training exercises available.

Can’t attend AORN this year?
Ask about upcoming MimicMED simulation courses.


Todd M. Larson

Todd M. Larson, Director, Mimic Medical Education & Development

Todd Larson, RN, BSN, MSIT, CNOR is the Director of Mimic Medical Education & Development at the Florida Hospital Nicholson Center.  In addition to his management of the Florida office, he works on developing simulation-based curriculum, research, and product development. He also continues to consult on robotic surgery training, telesurgery, and operating IT integration.

Got a question about an upcoming simulation course? Leave a comment on this blog or contact Todd directly at training@MimicSimulation.com

Leave a Comment »

Mimic Joins Dr. Vipul Patel at the 2014 Celebration of Life Gala in Support of Prostate Cancer Research

The International Prostate Cancer Foundation Board

The International Prostate Cancer Foundation Board

Mimic Technologies was proud to join Dr. Vipul Patel and The International Prostate Cancer Foundation during the annual Celebration of Life Gala benefiting the International Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Florida Hospital Prostate Cancer Program.

Dr. Vip Patel, a recognized leader in the field of robotic prostate- cancer treatment.

Dr. Vip Patel, a recognized leader in the field of robotic prostate- cancer treatment.

Dr. Vipul Patel’s dream of creating a prostate cancer foundation to promote research, educate men and encourage prostate screening was realized this year at the inaugural International Prostate Cancer Foundation Gala Weekend, with more than 300 guests, dignitaries and prostate cancer survivors from all over the world in attendance.

According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer among men in the United States.  In fact, one in six men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.  With early diagnosis and treatment, survival rates are over 90%.

Mimic is honored to work with Dr. Vip Patel, a recognized leader in the field of robotic prostate- cancer treatment, to advance the training of robotic surgeons.

Together, we can all save lives.

Learn more about International Prostate Cancer Foundation and how you can support the cause.

Leave a Comment »

Opportunity for Surgeons to Improve their Robotic Surgery Skills at the Upcoming World Symposium on Endometriosis

Ceana Nezhat, MD

Dr. Ceana Nezhat, M.D., is a recognized world leader in the field of minimally invasive surgery and Symposium Chair of the 2nd World Symposium on Endometriosis

The 2nd World Symposium on Endometriosis: Endometriosis, Cancer, and Fertility is happening March 27-29, 2014, in Atlanta, Georgia. This year’s theme: “Fertility Sparing Technology from Molecules to Robotics,” focuses on the latest research and treatment strategies in the fields of endometriosis and oncofertility.

The event promises three days of innovative, cutting-edge presentations, live surgeries, and open discussions as world leaders in endometriosis, oncology, fertility, and minimally invasive surgery come together. Attendees will also have the opportunity to learn and improve their robotic surgical skills, using custom one-on-one training on the dV-Trainer, Mimic’s robotic surgery simulator for the da Vinci© robot.

“This meeting has three primary focused areas,” explains Symposium Chair, Ceana Nezhat, MD. “First, the advancement of  surgical skills for endometriosis patients; second, the advancement of surgery for cancer patients, specifically oncofertility; and third, to discuss the safest and best minimally invasive approaches for both, endometriosis and cancer.”

Dr. Nezhat believes the new one-on-one proctoring provided by MimicMED, during this year’s Symposium, will “offer attendees an introduction to robotic technology, allowing surgeons the opportunity to choose if this is the best approach for their patients.”

MimicMED robotic surgery training

One-on-One surgery simulation training during WSE will be provided by MimicMED.

Ceana Nezhat, MD is a recognized world leader in the field of minimally invasive surgery, specializing in minimally invasive surgical treatment of severe and multi-organ endometriosis, infertility, and urologic and pelvic reconstruction. He has been instrumental in modifying established laparotomy procedures to laparoscopy with improved outcomes.

“Traditionally, surgeons attended  training classes, advancing to porcine labs,  then to the OR,” he stated. “However, with today’s advances in robotic surgery, simulation training affords surgeons the ability to advance more quickly and skillfully into the operating room.”

Spaces are available for attendees who would like to perfect their robotic surgical skills through custom one-on-one proctoring using the dV-Trainer at WSE. CME credit available.

Sign up at http://www.MimicMED.com/WSE

Leave a Comment »