A team from Heriot-Watt University has announced a new eye-tracking device designed to speed up training time for doctors and enhance patient care.
The tech, known as Optimal Software, has been trialled with doctors at the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, University of Dundee, and Perth Royal Infirmary to identify moments when trainees are unsure of a procedure giving teachers immediate feedback.
As a procedure is carried out, the software ‘detects’ where the learner is looking to accurately determine their understanding of what they are doing. It measures where a user is focussing and for how long, giving a detailed picture of their attention, confidence levels and how this is linked to their overall performance.
“It works with specially designed glasses, fitted with in-built infrared sensors, capable of monitoring the eye gaze and eye movements of a trainee,” he said.
“This data is simultaneously streamed to an automated analysis software along with video recordings of the training procedure.
He adds: “With the increased smartness and miniaturisation of sensors, it is now possible to enhance the learning capabilities of students in all walks of life, especially in critical applications such as those encountered in medical training.”
Dr Mel McKendrick, Assistant Professor in Psychology from the School of Social Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, and creator of the device, says that the team aims to make training “accessible for people around the world” in order to deliver a “hands-on learning experience like no other”.
Commenting, Dr McKendrick said: “We have developed eye-tracking analysis software that allows us to know what a junior doctor is focusing on while carrying out a training procedure within a real-world environment.
“This means we can tell if they are looking at the right areas and for the correct length of time, providing immediate feedback and an invaluable insight into a person’s performance.
“This is a novel data-driven approach to medical education that will lead to doctors of the future learning faster but with a greater understanding of what they need to do and help provide patients with an enhanced level of care.”
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Dr McKendrick says she plans to use the tech to develop a hands-on, online learning platform for surgeons treating breast cancer in developing countries.
Optimal Software has been developed through Dr McKendrick’s company, Optomize Ltd, and has received the support of medical professionals working in the NHS and cross-discipline academics.
Dr McKendrick added: “It is a pleasure to be part of an immensely skilled cross-disciplinary team working on such an important aspect of medical training.
“The need to widen accessibility and assess key aspects of skills acquisition is something that the Heriot-Watt Medical Education Lab and Optomize Ltd care deeply about and we hope that with our extensive experience in medical education and eye-tracking we can help to make it a very successful programme.”
Optimal Software is currently in the late stages of development and is expected to be ready for use in the medical sector within the next two years.