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Touch Surgery: An App that Allows Surgeons to Learn Operations on Virtual Patients




Touch Surgery is a new iPad and iPhone app designed to help surgeons learn how to operate. The app enables trainees to open the patients’ skin effortlessly. With just a swipe and a pair of scissors, you can view and cut into the virtual patient’s muscle. A few more taps, swipes, pinches and, you’ve removed the heart.

Through an email, Jean Nehme, a physician who developed the app with fellow surgeons, Sanjay Purkayastha,  Advait Gandhe and Andre Chow told us that: “We came up with the ideas because nowadays surgeons’ hours have been cut. The European working time directive cut surgeons’ hours from about 100 a week to 40, meaning trainee doctors can’t have the valuable experience they need.”

Touch Surgery has a  minimalistic user interface . Its layout is clear and uses  a light colour to convey the feeling of easy use. The apps allow you to select from a list of eight operations such as appendectomies and cholecystectomy. Operations are showed with two choices: Learn or Test. Learn offers step by step info of how  the process is carried out in a simplified way. The simulation part needs the  user to  interact with the app though  dragging a finger  across the phone’s screen to complete specific instructions. The animations are  beautiful and  help users understand what’s going on.

The Learn Operation  divides each procedure into about 10-20 steps. The steps are the same as would be read in any surgical textbook. To complete a stage, the users must drag the green ring into  the  purple ring. If they fail to do this correctly,  they will be asked to try again.   This practical approach  to studying an operation  helps to improve understanding and engagement. There are also many labels  showing key surgical risks.

Sometimes  you will be required just to remove retractors rather than dissecting. The animations and graphics  are to be  commended and there is no doubt  that this app has been developed with physicians, nurses and healthcare professionals in mind. The overall perception is realistic and the anatomical detail is admirable.

Trusted by over 1 million medical professionals, the app also  allows you to test yourself through a simulation that has no instructions at all. Subject to how well you did, your score will be uploaded to a leaderbord.  Therefore, if you feel you have mastered the simulation, the test option is for you.

For beginners, no rings are provided and they are required to remember where they made their cuts and attempt to  match them up. Then, they have to select which instruments to use. They aren’t allowed to choose “incorrect” instrument. If they choose  wrong instruments, they aren’t allowed  to move onto the next step of the operation.

The app has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages include  innovative use of virtual patients to simulate surgery, ability to compare your score to others and engaging user interface.  The main disadvantages are two: registering problem and use of less gaming elements.

It’s refreshing to have an app like Touch Surgery.  It makes learning experience that’s entertaining and reliable at the same time. Physicians, students and patients find this app empowering.


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