They aim to increase the number of trained ophthalmic professionals around the world.
Orbis International, a NGO dedicated to saving sight worldwide, and Crestron Technology had de challenge of increasing the number of ophthalmic professionals in remote locations around the world to be trained in a fully functionally teaching hospital on an aircraft, which also supports efforts to operate, and treat hundreds of patients.
The solution had to be intuitive, easy to use and reliable. They outfitted a newly renovated MD-10 aircraft with state-of-the-art networked AV and automation technology to stream high- definition, live audio and video feeds from the operating theater, laser treatment room and other key areas of the mobile hospital to a 46-seat classroom located at the front of the aircraft as well as to local hospitals and around the world.
Flying Eye Hospital
The Flying Eye Hospital, the world’s only mobile and fully accredited ophthalmic teaching hospital on board an MD-10 aircraft, was created in 1982 by Orbis International. “There are 285 million blind or visually impaired people in the world”, said Bob Ranck, CEO of Orbis International. Ninety percent of those impaired are in the developing world, and that’s where the Flying Eye Hospital operates. “This hospital is about our medical colleagues on the eye care team and helping to upskill them for challenges they face in their environment. We need our medical colleagues in the developing world to have the skills to address the problems of the patients they are seeing”, adds Ranck.
In 2015, the Flying Eye Hospital conducted more than 2 million eye screenings and exams, 30,000 trainings for doctors, nurses and other eye care specialists, and nearly 66,000 eye surgeries in remote and underserved areas of the world.
The Flying Eye Hospital goal in 2016 was having the ability to train even more eye care specialists in the third-generation MD-10 aircraft donated to Orbis by FedEx, and this is when Crestron Technology comes into play.
A Global Platform
“The idea is to give people of low and middle-income countries access to an equivalent standard of residency training that you’d expect to see here in the U.S.”, said Dr. Jonathan Lord who currently serves as Global Medical Director at Orbis. “The biggest single challenge is that no one has ever tried to do this with an aircraft before, but the advantages are what makes it so exciting”, he said.
ControlWorks LLC was up to the challenge and played a huge role in the integration of Crestron Technology in the aircraft. “My team and I were thrilled when Orbis International presented us with the opportunity to be involved with their mission”, said Lincoln King-Cliby, Commercial Market Director for ControlWorks LLC. “It allowed us to create an innovative Crestron solution that benefits people all over the world”.
As you enter the MD-10 aircraft, the learning experience begins in the 46-seat classroom with seats filled with local doctors, nurses, biomedical engineers and other eye care specialists watching real-time eye surgery or other procedures on a 50-inch, 3D-capable monitor streamed from one of the hospital rooms located behind the classroom.
“The microscope in the operating theater is linked to a 3D system so everyone here can get the same feeling—as though they’re sitting at the operating microscope”, said Lord.
Besides, two-way audio enables trainees to hear a surgeon and theater staff, and ask questions to better understand training sessions. “In every room, you can control all the cameras that are placed around the aircraft—you can show what’s happening in any other room and we can enable two-way communication between those rooms. That enhances the training capacity”, he said.
Easy to Use
With 400-plus medical volunteers, the technology interface had to be easy-to-use. More than 20 Crestron touch panels, audio and visual distribution systems, multimedia processors, cameras and monitors create a fully integrated solution for each Flying Eye Hospital space.
In addition to the operating theater, the hospital includes a laser treatment room, a sterilization room, a recovery room, an observation area, a small administration room and an audiovisual/IT room. “You have a control panel and you’re able to pull up anything that’s happening in the plane so people can see what’s happening in other parts of the aircraft” said Lord. “You can focus and move any of these cameras so you can make sure that people see exactly what you want them to see”.
“The biggest challenge has been dealing with the space limitations on the plane”, said Brian Studwell, Director, of Consultant Programs at Crestron. “One of the great things we were able to bring to the table was concealed cables for all the distribution and being able to power a lot of the transmitters and receivers remotely over that same single cable”.
All inputs and monitor outputs are connected using Crestron DigitalMediaTM technology allowing for any camera picture to be routed to any display. In addition, a Crestron Sonnex® multi-room audio system and Crestron speakers provide audio throughout the plane. “There is a 32x32 DM® switcher, and a DigitalMedia Presentation System running the classroom”, said Studwell.
The ability to live-stream from the aircraft is new to the third-generation hospital. “We can transmit this and have live communication with a classroom at the local hospital. Or we can transmit it around the world; we can send it to other countries”. Lord noted. Furthermore, thanks to a cell phone technology that is now available most everywhere in the world, Lord adds that “people can join the training and participate in the lectures just using a smartphone and a simple application”.
During programs, local hospitals are introduced to the online portal Cybersight® that provides medical services. “It allows them to upload cases—case details, pictures—and put them on a forum where they can get a mentor to talk to them about the case”, said Lord.
Upon completing training aboard the hospital each participant is given a thumb drive or a DVD containing all training materials, recordings of all surgeries they’ve seen, all lectures they have attended, and all training sessions. “Technology is really driving forward medical education. It
connects people around the world and allows you to build that global community that improves the quality of education”, concludes Lord.