Health Beat: Virtual patient: Bridging the communication gap

Health beat

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Do you ever find it challenging to understand what your doctor or surgeon is trying to explain to you? If so, a visual can be extremely helpful — especially if it's your body in 3D.

Complex conditions and procedures described in multi-syllabic medical terminology can be difficult to decode, creating stress and confusion about your health care options.

"Our biggest challenge as surgeons is getting people to understand exactly what we are doing and not only what we are doing, but how difficult it can be," Dr. David Thiel, a urologist at the Mayo Clinic.

Virtual dissection tables at the Mayo Clinic could help bridge the communication gap between doctor and patient.

"We can take a thin slice CT of any patient we want and we can virtualize them in six to 12 minutes and we can have them on the table," said Conrad Dove, a tech specialist at the Mayo Clinic.

In life-size 3D, doctors can show you — not just tell you — about a trouble spot on any layer of your body, down to the bone

"Three dimension is so much more real to people. If I show someone a picture of something on a sheet of paper or I show them a pop-up book, which one makes more sense? Even a child gets more out of a pop-up book," Dove explained.

Thiel agreed: "This type of model would allow you to see where the tumor is, here is where we need to cut, here is where we need to reconstruct and it kind of gives you an idea of what we are trying to do."

Thiel also expects to use the technology to help his surgical team, including nurses and medical technicians, prepare for a complex procedure. The technology is part of the Mayo Clinic's New Simulation Center.

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DOWNLOAD and VIEW the full-length interview with Dr. David Thiel

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