Local surgery app created to save African lives

A Vancouver surgeon has teamed up with a Surrey, B.C. tech company to create a surgical app for smart phones and tablets that they hope will help treat millions of patients in Africa.

MOST, or mobile optimized skill training, is a mobile app that will prepare surgeons to work on traumatic brain and spine injuries.

It's the first of 12 courses that will be provided by the Canadian Network for International Surgery (CNIS) for free download to African healthcare workers.

At a crossroads

Surrey's Conquer Mobile and UBC surgical professor and CNIS founder Dr. Ronald Lett are behind the app. ​

Lett says after decades of treating patients and training healthcare workers in Africa, he was at a crossroads.

"The problem is there is a huge demand for surgical education, limited funding, and therefore we feel that we can optimize training, by having it available using newer technology," said Lett.

The solution he imagined was a game that would accelerate the teaching of surgical training to African healthcare workers by a factor of 10.

"They would be able to download the app onto their phone or onto a tablet, and they would be able to go through the academic knowledge part through games and skills questions. But we've also created avatars, patients, who have been coded to react and provide the feedback that you would [receive when] practising on a patient in real life," said Lett.

Lett says they plan to use the new technology to train 25,000 African healthcare workers and treat 2 million patients over the next 3 years.

Conquer Mobile's Kathy O'Donoghue says Dr. Lett and some of their other clients are capitalizing on digital simulation to provide healthcare workers with an active learning experience.

"It's very exciting to be able to have that kind of impact in such short order, and then once they come back we'll be able to iterate on that software and make it even more valuable," said O'Donoghue.

CNIS will test the mobile app in Ethiopia and Rwanda in late spring or early summer.

Lett says the College of Surgeons in East, Central, and Southern Africa have already recommended the traumatic brain and spine injury course for all general surgeons going through their program.