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Virtual-reality ophthalmoscope used to better train all IU medical students

Eyesi Direct Student

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New technology available to all Indiana University School of Medicine medical students should help professors better ensure future doctors properly understand the complexities of the eye and the diseases that can affect it.  

IU School of Medicine recently acquired two Eyesi Direct Ophthalmoscopeseducational equipment that uses virtual reality to teach essential diagnostic skills. One device will be set up and stationed at the Indianapolis campus; the other will travel the state with stops at each of the university’s nine campuses, ensuring all IU medical students are properly trained.  

All doctors should be proficient in eye examinations, said Chi M. Yung, MD; but it’s always been difficult for professors to tell who has mastered this part of their medical education.   

Yung—a professor of ophthalmology and head of the Department of Ophthalmology’s medical student education program, who spearheaded efforts to acquire the Eyesi Direct devices—said teachers have historically had to rely on their students to be honest about what they’re seeing during practice eye exams.  

Opth. Drs Cantor Corson Party 36

Pictured: Chi M. Yung, MD

The American Academy of Ophthalmology acknowledges that training with a standard ophthalmoscope—the handheld tool all doctors use to look into a patient’s eye and retina during office visits—can be inadequate.  

In an article posted to the academy’s website that lists educational standards for training future physicians on how to use an ophthalmoscope, the academy notes that surveys of primary care physicians have shown many feel their training with an ophthalmoscope was inadequate.  

Eyesi Direct’s simulator uses virtual reality to teach physicians to properly handle its standard counterpart by creating a realistic computer-generated retina that can be examined like a real patient’s retina. 

As the student holds the ophthalmoscope and moves closer to the patient model, the retina becomes visible—just as it would with the standard ophthalmoscope 

Because Eyesi Direct is loaded with a wide range of realistic pathology, students are given the chance to examine virtual patients of varying gender, age and ethnicity who present with healthy and damaged retinas, according to the company.   

And anything the student sees through the digital ophthalmoscope is projected onto a screen, so the instructor can see it as well.  

This ensures the professor knows with certainty whether or not the student has a proper grasp on the concept being taught, Yung said. It also allows for discussion about different eye disorders and adequate feedback on their technique.  

Then, much like a videogame, students pass through phases or levels of training and tests to ensure they’ve properly grasped different aspects of their ophthalmology studies, Yung said. Students who might struggle with one concept can keep practicing it even if their peers move onto other subjects.  

This is a much more appropriate way of measuring a student’s success, since professors are usually left only to see if a student can recognize images of common eye disease, Yung said.  

IU School of Medicine is currently working to place the Eyesi program into its medical student curriculum as well as the logistics of moving the mobile version of the equipment to its regional campuses. But having a mobile version of the Eyesi equipment will further ensure all the future healers who pass through the school are properly prepared to recognize eye issues in their patients, Yung said.   

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Caitlin VanOverberghe

Caitlin VanOverberghe is a communications coordinator for the Indiana University School of Medicine, where she supports the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Department of Ophthalmology. Having earned degrees in journalism and telecommunications ...