The Air Force now trains with surgical robots

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 healthcare providers, Maj. Joshua Tyler, director of robotics at Keesler Air Force Base, helped to establish the Institute for Defense Robotic Surgical Education (InDoRSE). 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 only available through private industry.

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“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,” said Tyler. “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.”

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

Lt. Gen. Mark Ediger, U.S. Air Force Surgeon General, visits the Institute for Defense Robotic Surgical Education (InDoRSE), with Maj. Joshua Tyler, the program’s director, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Oct. 18, 2017.

“Between deployments, operational tempo, and varying surgical volumes at military facilities, it is important that whole teams are fully trained on surgical robotics,” explained Tyler. “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.”

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Robotic surgeries have been shown to deliver better outcomes for patients than traditional surgery. Robotics offers increased mobility for the surgeon, allowing them to make smaller incisions, and gives them better visualization. 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”, explained Tyler. “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 2017. There are already plans to double its training capacity soon. Soon after Keesler’s facility opened, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base set up their own surgical robotics program. Travis Air Force Base in California and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada are currently working on their surgical robotics acquisition now.

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