Robotic Surgery Training Program Aims at Improving Patient Outcomes

As the use of surgical robotics increases, the Air Force Medical Service is training its surgical teams in the latest technology, ensuring patients have access to the most advanced surgical procedures and best possible outcomes.

To address the demand for training military health care providers, Air Force Maj. Joshua Tyler, the director of robotics at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, helped to establish the Institute for Defense Robotic Surgical Education. The first of its kind in the Air Force, the facility trains Air Force, Army, Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs surgical teams to use state-of-the-art medical robotics. Access to this type of training was previously available only through private industry.

“Robotic surgery is becoming the standard of care for many specialties and procedures, but Air Force surgeons had limited opportunities to train with surgical robots,” Tyler said. “We needed a way to get surgeons trained without relying solely on the private sector. With the creation of InDoRSE we are able to do just that by using existing facilities and personnel.”

Addressing Military Health Care Challenges

The InDoRSE training site addresses challenges unique to military health care. The training also uses a team-based model, which helps to overcome some of the challenges of implementing robotic surgery in military hospitals.

“Between deployments, operational tempo and varying surgical volumes at military facilities, it is important that whole teams are fully trained on surgical robotics,” Tyler explained. “Also training the nurses and medical technicians, in addition to the surgeon, ensures that everyone has tangible experience with the robot and helps get surgical robotics up and running much quicker.”

Robotic surgeries have been shown to deliver better outcomes for patients than traditional surgery. They offer better visualization and increased mobility for the surgeon, allowing them to make smaller incisions. This precision leads to more successful surgeries and quicker recovery times, which improves patient satisfaction and lowers costs.

“The best outcomes I’ve ever given my patients came using robotics,” Tyler said. “We see significant decreases in post-surgery pain, surgical site infection rates and length of hospital stay. That quicker recovery means patients get to return to their normal life more quickly.”

The InDoRSE facility at Keesler stood up in March. There are already plans to double its training capacity soon. Soon after Keesler’s facility opened, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio set up its own surgical robotics program. Travis Air Force Base in California and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada are working on surgical robotics acquisition now.

“Use of robotics is increasing in many medical specialties,” Tyler said. “Providing opportunities for our whole surgical teams to receive training on this cutting edge technology is vital to the AFMS’s focus on continuously improving the patient experience.”