Opinion

Making Tele-mentored Surgery More Accessible

With the concept of robotic-assisted surgery gaining traction, continuous development and research in this field has paved the way for the advent of tele-mentored surgery, which effectively addresses the demand for surgical services in underserved regions. Vikram Thaploo, CEO-Telehealth, Apollo Hospitals Enterprises opines

The concept of telehealth has brought about a revolutionary change in the healthcare delivery system. Within this framework, tele-mentored surgery has emerged as a promising and practical solution, enabling surgical  care to be provided to patients located in remote areas. This advancement has been made possible through the convergence of robotic systems and state-of-the-art telecommunication technology. With the concept of  robotic-assisted surgery gaining traction, continuous development and research in this field have paved the way for the advent of tele-mentored surgery, which effectively addresses the demand for surgical services in underserved regions.

Tele-mentored surgery not only leverages the benefits of robotic-assisted minimally invasive procedures but also overcomes geographical barriers, granting patients improved access to high-quality surgical care. By  eliminating the need for patients to travel long distances, this approach can potentially reduce financial  burdens. Moreover, it enables the expertise of experienced surgeons to be virtually present through telepresence, while also streamlining operating room personnel requirements.

Additionally, the tele-surgical approach extends its utility to tele- mentoring, facilitating real-time guidance and technical assistance during surgical procedures by highly skilled surgeons. This form of remote mentoring contributes to the professional development and proficiency of healthcare professionals, ensuring enhanced patient outcomes across diverse locations.

Performing telesurgery: A closer look at the procedure Tele-mentored surgery is a highly intricate process that involves various hardware-based, functional, and technical requirements for seamless data streaming.A significant milestone in the field was achieved on September 7, 2001, when Professor Jacques Marescaux performed the inaugural telerobotic surgery, known as the ‘Lindbergh operation,’ in Strasbourg, France. This groundbreaking 54-minute tele-surgical cholecystectomy showcased the potential of surgical innovation without any complications, marking a significant milestone in the field.

Traditionally, in robotic surgery, the surgeon remains close to the patient, controlling the robotic system. However, in tele-mentored surgery, a paradigm shift occurs. While the robotic system still maintains direct contact with the patient, the surgeon operates from a remote console, separate from the operating room. A dedicated surgical team is present in the operating room as a backup, ready to assist as needed. Advanced communication technology plays a pivotal role, empowering the surgeon to control the endoscopic camera and manipulate the robotic arm attached to the patient cart, all while receiving real-time feedback. This emerging surgical system relies on cutting-edge wireless networking and robotic technology to successfully execute complex procedures.

The impact of tele-mentored surgery on healthcare delivery Tele-mentored surgery offers numerous advantages over conventional surgical methods, thanks to advancements in telecommunication and robotic surgery (RS). It has emerged as a promising and feasible option for patients seeking treatment without the need for extensive travel.

Let’s explore some of the key benefits below while ensuring the text is plagiarism free and incorporating necessary additions:
Eliminating long-distance travel: Many individuals face challenges in accessing medical care due to factors such as financial constraints, travel-related health risks, travel restrictions, or time delays that can hinder their ability to seek treatment. Telementored surgery provides an excellent solution by allowing patients to receive medical attention without the need to travel beyond their local hospitals. Surgical expertise can be remotely provided to patients from anywhere in the world, reducing the burden of long-distance travel.

Enhancing healthcare access in medically underserved areas: Tele- mentored surgery holds the potential to extend surgical care to people in medically underserved regions, including rural areas, battlefields, and inaccessible locations like spacecraft. By leveraging telecommunication technologies, surgical expertise can reach these remote areas, bridging the gap in healthcare access and ensuring timely interventions.

Facilitating surgical collaborations: Realtime collaborations between surgical experts from various healthcare centres become feasible through telesurgery. Patients can benefit from the collective expertise of multiple healthcare specialists simultaneously, particularly during complex microsurgical procedures. These real-time collaborations enable efficient decisionmaking and enhance the overall quality of surgical care.
Tackling surgeon shortages: The shortage of qualified surgeons and anaesthetists is a significant challenge faced in many regions, including India. Tele-mentored surgery presents a potential solution to address this shortage by enabling remote surgical interventions and consultations. It allows for the efficient utilization of surgical expertise, expanding the reach of experienced surgeons and optimising surgical care delivery.

Minimising the Risk of Infection: The global COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of infection control measures in healthcare settings. Tele-mentored surgery offers a viable option for both the surgeon and the patient by minimising the risk of viral transmission. By reducing direct physical contact during surgical procedures, telesurgery helps protect the health and safety of both parties involved.

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