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How valid are commercially available medical simulators?

Authors Stunt J, Wulms P, Kerkhoffs G, Dankelman J, van Dijk C, Tuijthof G

Received 4 March 2014

Accepted for publication 12 April 2014

Published 14 October 2014 Volume 2014:5 Pages 385—395


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

JJ Stunt,1 PH Wulms,2 GM Kerkhoffs,1 J Dankelman,2 CN van Dijk,1 GJM Tuijthof1,2

1Orthopedic Research Center Amsterdam, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; 2Department of Biomechanical Engineering, Faculty of Mechanical, Materials and Maritime Engineering, Delft University of Technology, Delft, the Netherlands

Background: Since simulators offer important advantages, they are increasingly used in medical education and medical skills training that require physical actions. A wide variety of simulators have become commercially available. It is of high importance that evidence is provided that training on these simulators can actually improve clinical performance on live patients. Therefore, the aim of this review is to determine the availability of different types of simulators and the evidence of their validation, to offer insight regarding which simulators are suitable to use in the clinical setting as a training modality.
Summary: Four hundred and thirty-three commercially available simulators were found, from which 405 (94%) were physical models. One hundred and thirty validation studies evaluated 35 (8%) commercially available medical simulators for levels of validity ranging from face to predictive validity. Solely simulators that are used for surgical skills training were validated for the highest validity level (predictive validity). Twenty-four (37%) simulators that give objective feedback had been validated. Studies that tested more powerful levels of validity (concurrent and predictive validity) were methodologically stronger than studies that tested more elementary levels of validity (face, content, and construct validity).
Conclusion: Ninety-three point five percent of the commercially available simulators are not known to be tested for validity. Although the importance of (a high level of) validation depends on the difficulty level of skills training and possible consequences when skills are insufficient, it is advisable for medical professionals, trainees, medical educators, and companies who manufacture medical simulators to critically judge the available medical simulators for proper validation. This way adequate, safe, and affordable medical psychomotor skills training can be achieved.

Keywords: validity level, training modality, medical education, validation studies, medical skills training

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