Goal 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Using Virtual Reality for Good: How this Children’s Health Organization is Using Technology to Provide Medical Training to Remote Healthcare Workers

Smile Train is leveraging technology to create efficient and effective programs and reach more children in need of cleft lip and palate repair.

Smile Train patient Nisha before her cleft lip repair surgery

Every year, more than 170,000 children in the developing world are born with a cleft in their lip or palate – and sometimes both. Commonly, cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects that occur in pregnancy and are when a baby’s lip or mouth doesn’t form properly. Depending on where you live in the world, these types of defects will be found during routine scans and check-ups. However, if you live somewhere that has these medical practices in place, and it goes unnoticed, you will be able to contact a personal injury attorney like those at https://lawtx.com/ to receive the justice and compensation you deserve from this medical malpractice.

If you live in a country that doesn’t have access to such technology, this is something that the parents won’t know about until the mother has birthed their child into the world. This impairment goes far beyond a cosmetic issue. These children face numerous challenges to their health, survival, and well-being. They are at a higher risk of being malnourished or abandoned and are less likely to attend school than their peers.

The lack of trained local surgeons and expense of surgical care pose major obstacles to their receiving corrective surgery. There have been various approaches to tackling this issue, like sending medical missions trips to treat affected children or sending doctors from disadvantaged countries to the developed world to get trained, however these solutions are costly and unsustainable.

Smile Train, a leading international children’s organization in the cleft lip and palate repair world, has figured out a new “teach a man to fish” approach. They’ve developed a first-of-its-kind Virtual Surgery Simulator (VSS) – a freely available, web-accessible surgical simulator providing free instruction for cleft lip and palate repair from some of the world’s top surgeons. Not to mention, there is now innovative technology available too that allows other doctors to consult on a case at the bedside of the patient using virtual methods. This means doctors from all over the world can consult on a case, no matter where they may be.

According to Susannah Schaefer, Executive Vice Chair and CEO of Smile Train, “This model builds local capacity and long-term, scalable solutions to improving oral health for children around the world.” Oral health for anyone and everyone is important, and it can be helped along by searching specifically for “a dentist office near me” online to find the best one that can be accessed by those that need it. However, more needs to be done for those who cannot use online searches to find a dentist.

This award-winning technology (similar to that which 360 Immersive provides for businesses), which was featured at TEDMED and is used in more than 137 countries, provides doctors anywhere in the world with essential information about cleft anatomy and surgical techniques for cleft repair surgeries by using interactive animated graphics, clear written and oral instructions, and real-life, intra-operative surgical videos. Beyond training local surgeons on the ground, Smile Train is currently working on new technologies, such as a speech therapy mobile phone app, to help support children’s post-surgery therapy.

Dr. Asif Masood, a local Smile Train surgeon in India says, “Surgery is something that cannot be learned from books alone. The 3-dimensional simulator helps in understanding what has been described in our text books.”

Smile Train patient Nisha after her cleft lip repair surgery

As of March 2017, there were 2,865 registered VSS users in 137 countries — with India registered as the third highest number of sessions after the US and Brazil.

In addition to developing a VSS, Smile Train recently released a complementary 360 ° virtual reality video campaign, which allows doctors and donors to better understand the patient’s side to recovery. Viewers are taken into the world of two children, Vikas and Nisha from India, who receive life-changing cleft repair surgeries.

These new partnerships and developments between technology, philanthropy and the healthcare sector allows organizations to train hard-to-reach healthcare workers, to improve doctor’s bedside manner and to better prep doctors for post-operative therapy after the child returns home. These VR experiences also allow Western-based donors, who are geographically and emotionally distant from the patients’ lives, to better understand the change Smile Train is driving.

Smile Train patient Vikas before his cleft lip repair surgery

Smile Train patient Vikas after his cleft lip repair surgery

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