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New VR Solution to Democratize Ophthalmic Surgical Training: Affordable, Portable and Scalable

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  • New VR Solution to Democratize Ophthalmic Surgical Training: Affordable, Portable and Scalable
The tool is intentionally designed to train surgeons in low- and middle-income countries, home to nine out of ten people with vision loss due to the difficulty of accessing eye care.
Published April 5, 2024

BOSTON, MA – April 5, 2024Orbis International and FundamentalVR today launched a new immersive virtual reality (VR) training solution intentionally designed for use in low- and middle-income countries, at the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) Annual Meeting. The tool is built to support students and residents learning to perform surgery to treat cataracts – the world’s leading cause of blindness, despite being treatable with a short operation – ultimately growing the number of skilled care providers and improving outcomes for patients. The tool’s affordability, portability and scalability, combined with its targeted functionality, make it a key advancement in ophthalmic surgical education globally and will accelerate Orbis’s efforts to build strong and sustainable eye care systems around the world.

Orbis, a global nonprofit, teamed up with FundamentalVR, a technology company dedicated to developing VR surgical training solutions, to create this unique tool. It integrates VR, haptic feedback, cloud assessment data, and off-the-shelf hardware to create a solution for cataract surgical training in resource-limited settings. Immersive VR simulation integrated with haptics provides a highly realistic experience for eye-care professionals, who are able to practice each step repeatedly to cement their understanding of both basic and difficult techniques.

“We saw a real need that we could meet. Most existing simulation training tools are expensive, not easily transportable or sourced, and/or train doctors on a surgical method usually only practiced in high-resource areas. Thanks to our partnership with FundamentalVR, we were able to bring a new VR solution to life that makes cataract surgical training accessible no matter where you live.”

Dr. Hunter Cherwek, Orbis Vice President of Clinical Services and Technologies

The training tool enables independent learning through automated performance monitoring and feedback, a particular benefit to medical professionals without access to robust ophthalmic training opportunities. Residents can hone their skills in a realistic simulation, practicing first in a safe environment before entering the operating room, which is proven to yield better surgical outcomes. Users of the platform can supplement their learning with Cybersight, Orbis’s telemedicine and e-learning platform.  

“Our partnership with Orbis International not only underscores our commitment to advancing the field of ophthalmology but also highlights the immense potential of VR in creating safer, more effective learning environments for healthcare professionals. Our goal is to elevate patient outcomes and redefine the standard of surgical proficiency on a global scale, advancing the quality of healthcare across borders.”

Richard Vincent, Co-Founder and CEO of FundamentalVR

The tool’s use of affordable gaming hardware makes it more financially accessible to resource-restricted partners. Additionally, it focuses on manual small-incision cataract surgery, the most common technique performed in low-resource countries, in order to train eye care professionals in the procedure they are most likely to use, making them better equipped to treat patients in their own communities.

The Orbis-FundamentalVR tool is already in use at partner hospitals in Bangladesh, China, Mongolia, Ethiopia, and India, where it is fast becoming an essential element of eye care education. Orbis is working with Bangladesh to incorporate surgery simulation into its national ophthalmology training curriculum, helping it become the third country in the world to mandate its use for eye care education.

The tool has been featured in a recent campaign as an example of how the metaverse is helping transform industries, including healthcare.

In the future, Orbis aims to utilize VR solutions to help train medical professionals in the treatment of glaucoma, strabismus and other eye conditions, further expanding access to eye care around the world.

The new training tool was developed with funding from the Silicon Valley Orbis Innovation Fund established by John A. and Susan Sobrato, Connie and Bob Lurie, Dr. David F. and Victoria A. Chang, and the ASCRS Foundation.

About Orbis

Orbis is an international nonprofit delivering sight-saving programs in over 200 countries and regions worldwide so that individuals, families, and communities can thrive. Currently, around 1 billion people across the globe live with completely avoidable blindness and vision loss. For over four decades, Orbis has been tackling this challenge by building strong and sustainable eye care systems that leave a lasting legacy of vision. Orbis runs dedicated in-country programs in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America; develops and implements innovative training and technology, including an award-winning telemedicine and e-learning platform, Cybersight; and operates the world’s first and only Flying Eye Hospital, a fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an MD-10 aircraft. For the past ten consecutive years, Orbis has achieved Charity Navigator’s coveted four-star rating for demonstrating strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency, placing Orbis in the top 3% of U.S. charities. For the past two years, Orbis has earned GuideStar’s platinum Seal of Transparency. In 2022, Orbis earned “accredited charity” status from the Better Business Bureau by meeting all 20 of their standards for charity accountability. To learn more, please visit orbis.org.

About FundamentalVR

Global leader in immersive surgical training, FundamentalVR was founded with the mission to accelerate human capability in surgery and medicine through virtual technologies to improve patient outcomes. The company’s innovative approach accelerates the industry shift towards digital surgery, addressing the competency gap in training for intelligent operating rooms. Its purpose-built Fundamental Surgery platform allows for full rehearsal of medical and surgical procedures, and its patented HapticVRTM technology mimics the physical touch, weight, resistance and feedback of surgical actions and accurately simulates the sensations of soft tissue, bone textures and muscle. With over 15,000 competency-building sessions conducted globally and accredited by and affiliated with institutions like AAO, AAOS and Royal College of Surgeons of England, FundamentalVR remains committed to elevating performance and training skilled surgeons and OR teams at scale. For more information, please visit FundamentalVR.com

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