World watches surgeon’s ‘borderless teaching’

Australian medical expertise has been shared with health professionals around the world, in real time online, as Melbourne’s The Avenue Private Hospital took centre stage.

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Jit Balakumar was in the spotlight, live-streaming a complex hip surgery to more than 300 of his peers in 69 countries.

The hospital’s theatre was equipped with five cameras to capture every element of his surgery so those watching could learn the technique.

“We’re delivering really high standards of care here in Australia and this technology allows us to teach some of these skills to the rest of the world,” Dr Balakumar said.

“It shows that it’s not just borderless surgery, it’s borderless teaching.”

Based in the inner-city suburb of Windsor and run by Ramsay Health Care Australia, The Avenue Private Hospital has developed a reputation for excellence in orthopaedic surgery including joint replacement and the management of sports injuries.

“This shows that Ramsay is not just providing high-quality healthcare but facilitating teaching opportunities and indeed facilitating it,” Dr Balakumar added.

“(The live surgery) was definitely a hard thing to do, because technically it’s a difficult operation and we have to try to be talking and answering questions from across the world at the same time. It went really well because of the excellent team at The Avenue.”

Dr Jit Balakumar

Dr Balakumar has been performing periacetabular osteotomy – a modern treatment for hip dysplasia, an abnormality of the joint – for about 10 years.

He said four surgeons are now using a similar technique at The Avenue, which is a high-volume hospital for hip preservation surgery.

The live broadcast was organised by ISHA – The Hip Preservation Society, using the Proximie platform.

Dr Balakumar described the technology as a digital upgrade of Boston’s Ether Dome, where in the 1800s medical professionals watched revolutionary treatments in an operating amphitheatre at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“They would be doing the surgery in a big auditorium with everyone looking down at the patient from the stalls. This is the modern version of that hall,” he said.

“During the live stream, the moderators could not only see me, but they could put an augmented reality hand into the patient and draw on areas to highlight to the audience what we were doing.

“It was high-fidelity teaching, and I can see how it’s really going to evolve.”

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