Aviation analogies are often used in discussion and analysis of medical quality issues. Both industries depend on the decision making of relatively few specialists to ensure the safety of their clients. In the case of both of pilots and clinicians, the smallest lapse in judgment can have a profound impact on human safety. The need for performance management in aviation launched a billion dollar flight simulation industry for approximately 75,000 flight crews worldwide. Death due to operator error has seen a dramatic reduction in aviation since the introduction of flight simulation technology. That and other process improvements have elevated aviation to one of the safest forms of travel.
Other studies show that 44% of physician-originated error results from a deficit in practitioner knowledge or skill. For an industry that is undergoing massive improvements in the quantity and efficacy of diagnostic and treatment options, the state of the art in disease training is surprisingly archaic. The primary method of delivering new information to physicians is still verbal and written. Medicine is well positioned to experience the benefits of simulation training.
Today web-based clinical simulation training is readily available and prepared to assist in the education and practice of medical professionals. Many note that it has the potential to alter the landscape of today’s medicine, providing quality education and unparalleled experience to today’s physician, nurse, and medical professional. There are many reasons how and why this educational tool can reduce human medical error in general. However, it is important to focus on three of the most important benefits of medical simulation and how it can alter the practice and understanding of today’s medicine.
1) Medical training in a consequence-free environment
When identifying, diagnosing, and prescribing in a virtual/web-based simulator, clinicians can feel more comfortable making decisions because they are in a consequence-free environment. If a clinician makes a serious error which results in patient injury or death in simulation, the likelihood of making the same mistake in clinical practice is significantly decreased.
2) Fewer restraints on clinical learning
Virtual patient simulators are available everywhere at once; the availability of high quality training is no longer constrained by access to classrooms, teachers, and experts. The medical student, nurse, or trained physician with access to a computer with an Internet connection is able to continue training at any time, day or night.
3) Reduced variability in clinical care delivery
When training on advanced web-based simulators, which utilize a “Quality Improvement Cycle”, a clinician’s treatment path is compared to best practices and, when available, medical guidelines, and medical error is quickly identified in a specific patient context.