Background: Several challenges exist with laparoscopic skills training in resource-restricted countries, including long travel distances required by mentors for onsite teaching. Telesimulation (TS) is a novel concept that uses the internet to link simulators between an instructor and a trainee in different locations. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of telesimulation for teaching the Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery (FLS) to surgeons in Botswana, Africa.
Methods: A total of 16 surgeons from two centers in Botswana participated in this 8-week study. FLS TS was set up using two simulators, computers, webcams, and Skype software for eight surgeons in the TS group. A standard FLS simulator was available for the eight surgeons in the self-practice (SP) group. Participants in the TS group had one remote training session per week with an FLS proctor at the University of Toronto who provided feedback and demonstrated proper technique. Participants in the SP group had access to the FLS DVD and were instructed to train on FLS at least once per week. FLS post-test scores were obtained in Botswana by a trained FLS proctor at the conclusion of the study.
Results: Participants in the TS group had significantly higher post-test FLS scores than those in the SP group (440 +/- 56 vs. 272 +/- 95, p = 0.001). All trainees in the TS group achieved an FLS simulator certification passing score, whereas only 38% in the SP group did so (p = 0.03).
Conclusion: Remote telesimulation is an effective method for teaching the Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery in Africa, achieving a 100% FLS skills pass rate. This training platform provides a cost-effective method of teaching in resource-restricted countries and could be used to teach laparoscopic skills anywhere in the world with internet access.