About this PROJECT.
The Advanced Technical Skills Simulation Lab (ATSSL) is definitely home to ‘advanced’ technology! In fact, it would be safe to say that the co-project between the Calgary Health Region and the University of Calgary is one of the most leading-edge spaces in Western Canada!
The ATSSL, which opened its doors in April of 2014, is the first phase in a larger project that’s to create a centre where students and healthcare professionals can practice, train and hone their skills. Occupying 10,000 square feet of basement space in the Health Research Innovation Centre near the Foothills hospital, the ATSSL is a high tech place of learning where individuals and classes can learn by doing - and the knowledge can be shared with or gleaned from anywhere in the world that’s connected.
In the press release announcing the project, Dr. Vincent Grant, ATSSL co-director and associate professor of Paediatric Emergency Medicine, medical director of KidSIM Paediatric Simulation Program, said “physicians and other health-care professionals are understandably excited about the new simulation lab. It will allow them to stay current on the newest techniques and students will gain crucial skills before ever setting hands on a patient. The lab is designed to be a center of excellence with a focus on patient and learner safety using scenarios that reflect real live situations. Ultimately, it will further enhance patient care and safety.”
Pulling such a project off - choosing the right technology to meet the lab’s needs, integrating it into the building itself and creating an interface that can be handled by mere human beings, required a close cooperation between the folks behind the ATSSL and their technology partner Matrix Video Communications.
“We’ve been working with Alberta Health Services for a long time, on several other projects,” said Robert Wojtas, who headed the Matrix side of the equation. “Wojtas said there was an existing design for the project before Matrix became involved, but that ATSSL wanted a second opinion. “They asked if we could come up with a solution,” he said. “They told us what they needed in terms of functionality, we came up with a design and they seem to have liked it quite a bit better, as they awarded us the contract.”
Putting together a project like that is a complex task, to say the least, but Asela Peiris, system engineer with AHS eSIM Provincial Simulation Program said the relationship he’d built with Matrix over the years let them hit the ground running. “I worked with them on several other projects,” he said, “and so when I came on to this project we were throwing around different ideas of what to put in and how to implement the technology and I recommended that we contact Matrix as a possible vendor to do the integration.” He said there were multiple vendors bidding on the project, but based on what their requirements were Matrix was not only the best to fully grasp what they wanted to do, they also had a competitive price and a familiarity working with different simulation programs around Calgary.”
To get the project off the ground, Peiris worked with the various user groups who had a stake in the project to find out what they wanted done, and how it could be best accomplished. “We discussed how we would utilize the technology to accomplish what their goals were,” Peiris said. The result of all the collaboration is a facility that hosts 20 tables overall and is configurable into individual parts or one large teaching space. “You can have four groups of five with one instructor table and four learner tables if you want,” he said. “The configuration is endless.”
Seamless, too, though there’s a lot of technology behind the scenes to make it that way. “We have four specialized instructor tables that have the ability to route their signal to any other table as well,” Peiris noted. “If there is an instructor up there using his in-light camera, they can transmit whatever you’re doing and the learners at their stations can observe what the instructor is doing, including techniques, and they can be practicing (the techniques) on their specimen as well. So you’re still receiving instruction without having to hover around or crowd around one person.”
Every table has its own overhead full 1080P HD networked IP-camera, arm mounted microphones, Crestron transmitter and it was all configured so the signals can be routed from any location to any another location that has access. The cameras feed into servers that allow the video to be archived so the students can be evaluated later. As it’s a teaching facility each bed is outfitted with dual monitors and many speakers throughout the room so the instructor can converse with student without affecting any other students in the room.
The entire system is controlled by Crestron touch panels, which were custom programmed by Matrix’s well-respected Crestron programmer, Frank DeNys, who collaborated with Peiris and several doctors to ensure the user interface was extremely simple and intuitive, yet flexible enough to handle the complex tasks of routing so many signals. “We provided in depth operational training on the Crestron interface to ensure a level of comfort for the multiples of users” Wojtas said.
As for the now-completed and operating phase one, those involved in making it all happen are proud of their efforts. “I showed this to a couple of our corporate clients,” Wojtas said, “and they basically said ‘wow!’. Everyone was very complimentary on the design of the Crestron interface, how we tabbed and labeled everything, how everything was done cleanly and looks almost like there’s no technology in the room. It looks seamless.”
“Basically, this really shows Matrix’ capabilities of audio/video design/integration,” Wojtas said. “It features our design team, our installation team, our programmers, all of which are in-house personnel. We were brought in because of the relationship with the client, they knew if we were going to design something it would work.”
And work it does. Wojtas reported that one of the doctors who was shown the lab in action referred to the Matrix gang as magicians. “I’m putting it on my business card!” Wojtas joked.