An integrated teaching environment with a Human Patient Simulator
The concept of MultiMED was to form an integrated teaching environment. Imagine the following scene : unproven medical trainees trying ambitious medical procedures on a prone patient nick-named 'Stan the Man'. The people watching are also trainees - observing from distant hospital sites thanks to an ESA-backed satellite system which also provided the option to remotely take part in the action. Stan makes the perfect patient; he never complains about being used as a test-subject. His heartbeat, pulse and breathing are normal, and if trainees cut him, he will bleed, but no-one ever has to worry about doing him real harm. Stan is really a sophisticated mannequin, his life-like responses controlled by a nearby computer called the Human Patient Simulator (HPS). The HPS is the centrepiece of the UK-based Bristol Medical Simulator Centre, used to familiarise students, physicians and medical support staff with real-life clinical scenarios. Training sessions using the HPS were broadcast via DirecPC satellites to more than a dozen sites across the UK as well as Bosnia, as part of a project called MultiMED. The now-concluded pilot scheme was aimed at providing cost-effective Continuing Medical Education (CME) to healthcare professionals. In advance of a simulation MultiMED staff could download teaching modules via DirecPC into local terminal data caches. Remote users could then use the terminal for offline coursework and reference, then real-time passive observations once the simulation starts, and ultimately active intervention via a return internet link to influence the outcome of the HPS scenario in play. 'Tele-education' represents one of the most promising applications of satellite telemedicine. Satellites can multicast video lectures and associated data to widely-dispersed sites. Another ESA-funded project called Mayflower has successfully demonstrated using satellites to deliver university courses in medicine to students and nurses in Norway and Italy.