Connecting for a healthier future

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the United States was facing a health care crisis. In 2020, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimated that by 2033, the country could see a shortage of 54,100 to 139,000 doctors. The years of the pandemic have added more stress and broadened the problem to a larger scale, greatly affecting other health care professions.

Having an office location in Phoenix and linking it to the University of Arizona for the Health Sciences makes it a

These converging trends have placed a premium on training new medical professionals to fill healthcare gaps. Advances in technology, including the emergence of virtual reality and augmented reality, offer new ways to train and teach students. Health Tech Connect, an initiative of the University of Arizona Health Sciences, is creating opportunities to take advantage of those technological possibilities.

Health Tech Connect builds a network of startups, businesses, higher education, finance, and economic development stakeholders to advance health technology in Arizona.

“The idea is to tear down the walls, remove the silos, and keep everyone in the same room,” he said. Caroline BergerD., director of corporate and community relations at UArizona Health Sciences.

In September 2021, Health Tech Connect hosted its first quarterly event at the Phoenix Bioscience Core. Presentations by the speakers were followed by a reception geared towards networking opportunities for attendees.

“Phoenix is ​​a real hotbed and people wanted to see what our university was doing, especially in biotechnology,” Berger said. “They wanted a reason to connect and highlight the health sciences, and I think we, with our community partners, were able to provide that.”

Good motivator for communication

Naveen Govind, chief growth officer of deep tech company 8chili, was one of the presenters at the initial Health Tech Connect event. He recalls conversations that took place in the courtyard at the networking session that eventually sparked a relationship between the company and the university.

Carolyn Berger spoke at a Health Tech Connect event in December 2021, which included both in-person and virtual participants.

“8chili was formed to meet the challenges of what we call the health metaverse. The event was a good catalyst for us,” Govind said. “It has put 8chili at the fore and a number of conversations have escalated into more conversations that we continue to follow.”

Govind said the shortage of healthcare workers, exacerbated by the pandemic, created an opportunity for 8chili to partner with an academic medical center. The company has been searching for new markets for HintVR™, a powerful platform that uses headphones and a cloud-enabled management system to produce virtual, mixed and augmented reality simulations.

Govind met for the first time Jim Lindgren, MD،, medical director of the Simulation and Innovation Center at Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. Govind toured the center and was impressed by both what he saw and the potential it had for the 8 Chileans.

Tailoring is one of four training modules that 8chili will develop for researchers at ASTEC.  Allan Hamilton, MD, FACS, (left) is one of the subject matter experts reviewing 8chili products.

“Jim has created an amazing set of tools that are very capable of putting together in the VR aspect to enable the next generation of simulated learning,” Govind said. “We talked about how to bridge the gaps between the issues caused by COVID with remote collaboration — with learning — and how to introduce new modalities.”

In Phoenix, the emerging relationship sparked by Health Tech Connect led to 8chili opening an office in the Weartech Center for Applied Research. The Greater Economic Council of Phoenix has also been involved by providing a funding opportunity to help advance the partnership between UArizona Health Sciences and 8chili.

Govind visited later Arizona Center for Simulation Technology and Education (ASTEC) in Tucson, where he met Allan Hamilton, MD, FACSCEO of ASTEC Corporation, and Dave Beaver, MS, CHSOS-AAssistant Director of Operations. From that meeting, formal agreements were drawn up to review and develop products for use in medical simulation.

“ASTEC has amazed me,” Govind said. “I told them this is where we want to collaborate with you, because you are building something very unique.”

Mutual benefit and promising potential

As part of the agreement between the two parties, ASTEC will provide subject matter experts, including Dr. Hamilton, to test the HintVR™ platform. After the experts have finished their review, ASTEC will submit a final report to 8chili. In contrast, 8chili develops four training modules for ASTEC based on the procedures of IV placement, suturing, thyroidotomy, and lumbar puncture.

The first unit 8chili is developing can enhance training to perform a cricoidotomy, an incision in the neck to open the airway.

“I remain optimistic about the potential of the 8Chili training platform,” Bevar said. “From what I’ve already seen, there is a promise to incorporate mixed reality technology into some of our training units.”

Bevar believes that augmented reality can be particularly useful for students and health professionals undergoing training at ASTEC.

“The procedural models we create are very realistic,” Beaver said. “But some of our specialist experts would like to see additional features such as a tinge of air or a mist of blood, which can be easily combined with 8Chili technologies.”

The first unit that will be developed from 8-chili will be a cyclothyroidotomy, which involves making an incision in the neck to create an airway during certain life-threatening situations.

As Director of Corporate and Community Relations at UArizona Health Sciences, Caroline Berger organizes quarterly Health Tech Connect events that seek to bring key stakeholders together to advance healthcare technology.

“This kind of virtual training experience may help provide the much needed fix to help bridge the procedural competency gap for some of our residents,” said Dr. Hamilton, a Regents professor of surgery who trained as a brain surgeon at Harvard University. . “The average resident may go through their entire postgraduate training and never do a thyroidotomy.

Dr Hamilton added: “Everyone has high hopes and expectations for the future of virtual reality, but we also need to make sure that the technology is adequately vetted by clinicians who routinely perform the procedures.” “ASTEC can provide a very deep seat of dedicated experts and we have the facilities and staff to ensure that once the time is right, we can appropriately assess its potential in the hands of some very motivated young doctors and nurses.”

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