Sleeve gastrectomy telementoring: a SAGES multi-institutional quality improvement initiative
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BACKGROUND: Sleeve gastrectomy is a relatively new procedure that developed as a result of rapid innovation in the field of bariatric surgery. As with any newly developed operation, there is a learning curve that potentially can be associated with higher morbidity. Real-time surgical mentoring reduces the learning curve effect but can be time intensive for the mentor. The aim of this initiative was to evaluate the feasibility, effectiveness, and satisfaction of surgical telementoring for laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. This is the first national specialty society effort to determine if the "remote presence" of an expert surgeon (mentor) can help practicing surgeons improve skills. METHODS: The experience of 15 surgical trainees (mentees) who performed laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy under real-time telementoring by 7 mentors was reviewed. Telementoring was implemented using the Visitor1® remote presence system with two-way live audio and video communication. The receiving platform utilized a conventional laptop, iPad, or iPhone. The mentee followed a structured telementoring program including didactic learning, live case teleobservation, and telementoring of 2-3 cases. A survey on the quality of the telecommunication and effectiveness of the mentoring was performed by the mentor and mentee on a scale of "exceeded," "met," "almost met," or "failed to meet" expectations. The overall telementoring experience was rated on a scale of 1 for "poor" to 5 for "excellent." RESULTS: Based on the mentees' survey, the overall telementoring experience was rated as 4.8. Despite the mentees having experience with laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, most commented that the telementoring experience was an excellent educational tool and they learned some new techniques they plan to apply it in their practice. Based on the mentors' survey, the overall telementoring experience was rated as 4.7. All mentors stated that they were satisfied with the telementoring sessions and there were no unexpected intraoperative occurrences. There were some logistical limitations including difficulties in scheduling of cases or the delay of cases. CONCLUSIONS: Surgical instruction by telementoring was shown to be feasible, practical, and successful, and was highly rated in this study by both the mentors and mentees. The currently utilized telementoring platform is thus an effective educational tool that can facilitate acquisition of surgical skills and assist with the conventional on-site surgical mentoring model.
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