Technologies once relegated to science fiction, such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality and cutting-edge imaging tools, are changing the face of health-care education. These advancements also are the driving force behind the ramped-up development of purpose-built medical-training facilities known as simulation centers. These high-tech learning hubs are designed to train health-care providers in procedures like limb amputation, gallbladder removal, eye surgery and more, all without the need for actual cadavers, organs or even actors as patients
These new centers, which have been rapidly springing up on medical campuses and at hospitals over the past few years, offer medical-meeting organizers options besides the traditional hotel ballroom or convention center in which to showcase new technologies, and where medical professionals can collaborate and hone their skills in a space that virtually replicates what they would see and experience in the field. Here are profiles of a few of these centers, where the future of medicine is becoming today's reality.
A vision of the future: Rochester’s Discovery Square.
When the Mayo Clinic Isn't Enough
Rochester, Minn., home of the world-famous Mayo Clinic
, in 2013 launched a 20-year, $5.6 billion economic initiative named Destination Medical Center in a bid to become more of a premier destination for medical research, development and education. Among the plan's key components:
• Developing the city's downtown waterfront with the goal of raising the visibility of the Mayo Civic Center as a regional convention center;
• Transforming the city's downtown core with added hotels, retail and residential options, including the addition of a seven-story hotel on top of the Mayo Clinic's Gondo Building;
• Creating a central transit hub with a new high-speed rail connection between Rochester and the Twin Cities;
• The development of Discovery Square, being touted as a "new address for the future of biomedical research and technology innovation."
Johns Hopkins Medicine Simulation Center
At the $6.8 million Johns Hopkins Medicine Simulation Center, which opened in January 2017 at the Johns Hopkins medical campus in East Baltimore, life-sized mannequins with artificial pulses and other vital signs lie in hospital beds, their sensors programmed to "react" to simulated surgeries. The center was designed to be as clinically realistic as possible, right down to the lighting in the corridors, noisy medical equipment and an integrated audiovisual system that allows staff to create a realistic medical scenario in any room. Plans are in the works to add a dedicated resuscitation center where students will be able to practice CPR. According to officials, there will be plenty of flexible conference space, although the details haven't been firmed up.
Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital Research and Education Building
St. Petersburg, Fla.
While the Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital Research and Education Building already had a simulation lab, its $95 million, 225,000-square-foot research and education facility, which opened last September, is significantly larger and more sophisticated. The building's design includes 40,000 square feet of laboratory space, a 250-seat auditorium and flexible areas for team-based learning. There are 15 patient rooms containing infant and child mannequins, as well as an operating room, an intensive-care unit, a real ambulance and a realistic outpatient bedroom in which to teach at-home care.
One of the highlights of the new building is an expanded research center that is divided into five institutes focused on heart disease, cancer and blood disorders, neonatal medicine, the neurosciences and fundamental biomedical research. The first floor houses the Peabody Restaurant, named for the 19th-century philanthropist whose name graces the George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins' main campus in Baltimore.
Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, University of South Florida
Steps from the Tampa Convention Center, the $38 million, 90,000-square-foot Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation was designed specifically to train surgeons on new techniques and surgical equipment in a hospital-like setting. According to the facility, in its first year of operation (2012) more than 16,000 students from 60 countries came through its doors.
The facility features 39 surgical-skills stations for hands-on training, a virtual operating room that simulates the sounds of the hospital battlefield, patient exam rooms, as well as more than 25,000 square feet of conference space where attendees can interact and discuss what they have learned. Also on-site is a 3-D printer that can create customized knee implants, and an infant-sized mannequin that convulses like a distressed newborn, on which neonatal nurses can practice their life-saving techniques.
Davis Global Center, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Scheduled to have opened in the first quarter of this year, the $119 million Davis Global Center promises to propel the training of medical professionals in the same way that flight simulators have advanced the training of pilots in the aviation industry. Each level of the 192,000-square-foot simulation facility will be dedicated to a different medical discipline, while the ground floor will feature a virtual home-care setting as well as a simulated ambulance for practicing emergency situations and transporting virtual patients from the site of the incident to a hospital.
Level one will provide virtual- and augmented-reality technology, including a 130-seat holographic theater with a 280-degree curved screen for showing 2-D and 3-D images, as well as a 3-D laser-immersive environment designed to help clinicians and researchers develop new treatment modalities. Level two will feature a simulated operating room, nursing station, and labor-and-delivery room, as well as a pediatric-care unit, while level three will be dedicated to surgical training with 20 operating rooms for simulated practice, as well as a command center to record and broadcast sessions locally, nationally and globally.
Praxis Center for Innovative Learning and Rural Health Care Simulation Training Center
Plans are in the works for a $35 million, 82,000-square-foot training facility to bolster hands-on health care in this rural area. Two local businessmen, Pat Dudley and Ray Rogers, co-founders of the Butte-based National Center for Health Care Informatics, are leading the project. They say Praxis Center for Innovative Learning and Rural Health Care will be the country's first independently owned, nonprofit medical-simulation facility dedicated to rural health care. They are working on lining up the financing and hope to be able to break ground on the facility later this year, with a 15-month development window. Once open, the center is expected to draw up to 4,000 doctors, nurses, technicians and first responders each year looking to hone their skills on high-tech mannequins, imaging simulators, and virtual-reality settings and scenarios.
One part of the project will resemble a rural hospital inside and out, with an emergency room, an intensive-care unit and a helipad to help future students play out life-saving scenarios. The center's educational training will include the emergencies that out-of-the-way medical facilities often encounter, such as tractor accidents, hunting wounds and vehicle mishaps. Also in the plans is enough conference space for up to 300 participants.