Four Key Takeaways from a Fireside Chat with Stefan Vilsmeier & Sam Glassenberg

Updated November 02, 2021 5 minute read

Brainlab President & CEO Stefan Vilsmeier and CEO and founder of Level Ex Sam Glassenberg recently discussed a variety of topics relating to the ever-evolving healthcare industry and the path forward for digital technologies in medicine.

Throughout this 40 minute chat, they touched on a number of topics — from the effectiveness of games for doctors to the need for structured healthcare data to ensuring everyone has access to advanced medical technology.

We’ve selected four key takeaways from their discussion. Watch the clips and read the transcripts below.

1. Play is more effective than being lectured at when learning something new, even in medicine.

Stefan Vilsmeier: The least effective way of learning something new is lectures. And the whole world has gone to that method over the last 18 months. This is a pivot from being able to try things out, which is the most effective way of learning, almost like being in a sandbox and trying something yourself. It doesn’t matter what you learn, from little children when they take their first steps to how our ancestors learned to throw a spear. All of that is basically driven by trying things out, and with the pandemic, we’ve gone again to lecture mode, which is a lot harder but also a lot less efficient. Reading, in fact, is more effective than just being lectured at. But again, the most effective way is trying things out.

Sam Glassenberg: Dare we say, the best way to learn something is to play with it?

2. Democratizing access to a broader suite of technologies for surgery and other procedures can make an impact around the globe.

Sam Glassenberg: I think that the point that you made, getting back to AR headsets, was actually intriguing, because we think about the opportunity and potential of AR, right? We think about having a Magic Leap headset and the benefit for the surgeon and the patient of being able to project the MRI or the CT scan or the ultrasound view on top of the patient that you’re looking at, so you don’t have to register in your brain what you see on the screen. And then from there, we can look at the educational benefits. Now we can take that same headset and project a virtual patient over here and practice doing the procedure beforehand.

The point that you made is really interesting, because as we do this, we’re actually democratizing access to the broader suite of technologies. With an AR headset, instead of needing a million dollars of equipment and screens and all the complexity, you put it on, you push a button, and you can create a virtual endoscopy suite, cath lab, or OR. The screens are all placed correctly, and you have all the tools you need and all the visualizations, and you could also project the training material on top of it.

What this would do is not just improve the situation in developed countries, but lower the barrier to entry for developing countries to be able to build out this infrastructure because so much of it exists in software. And really, what’s enabling that is a headset that costs a few thousand dollars and the software on top of it. So I think that’s an interesting way to think about it.

Stefan Vilsmeier: And you would be able to press a button, and at the push of a button, you could get an expert to be available online in a different corner of the world, who may be a teacher for a new procedure or a new concept.

3. Structuring data has the potential to allow all data collected in healthcare to be used to advance patient treatments, even outside of clinical trials.

Sam Glassenberg: One of the interesting areas that you started touching on was Brainlab’s work in standardizing and structuring data, and creating standardized registries so that data can be more broadly available and be used for all of these broad beneficial purposes, but obviously while respecting the privacy of the individual patient. Theme two is life sciences game-changers. You had alluded to some of the disciplines and specialties that you’re working in. So the theme is basically that—throughout 2021, there have been incredible advancements in fields such as genomics and oncology, and these are catapulting us into a new era of science. How is this changing the game?

And you started to talk about these registries. Can you talk a little bit about what Brainlab is doing specifically around oncology to help accelerate the development of new treatments?

Stefan Vilsmeier: We’re seeing a couple of important trends. First of all, there’s always a distinction between what is a clinical study and what is routine care. They are two distinct areas, but I think the distinction will go away, and it’s really crucial and an important step that that all becomes one and that every patient will get the data collected and processed at the same level as if it were a clinical study.

4. The negative side effects of the digital transformation, which was accelerated by the COVID pandemic, can be combatted with other types of better-suited technology.

Stefan Vilsmeier: I think we need to add a whole different level of proficiency that can be rolled out faster and more broadly than today’s technologies.

Also, best practice guidelines and insights as to how technology is being used are changing all the time. So, even the speed at which we need to adopt a best practice or guideline and roll something out is completely shifting. For example, during the COVID crisis, the way doctors learned to intubate a patient really changed, and that’s probably something you can really talk to, Sam.

Sam Glassenberg: Exactly. We’ve seen over the last year that there’s been a digital transformation in terms of how doctors learn, but, in many cases, it hasn’t been for the better. We’ve gone from being able to train doctors in person in groups, or potentially in the operating room, and now with COVID, a lot of that has shifted to Zoom. We’ve gone from being able to manipulate a mannequin together, or touch it, or manipulate a device together, and now we’re trying to demonstrate something using PowerPoint slides over Zoom.

In that sense, we’ve seen that digital transformation can have a negative effect. But one of the things that Level Ex has been working on, and that we’ve been employing across the industry—Brainlab has been using it, for example—is our cloud gaming platform Remote Play. With Remote Play, a surgeon and a trainer, or multiple surgeons, can get together over Zoom or Microsoft Teams or WebEx and can actually interact with a virtual patient that’s simulated in the cloud.

Interested to see the whole discussion? Watch the full video here.

Lauren Greenwood


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