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The technology boom of the last two decades has made
telemedicine significantly more available and its use
more widespread in the health care system. Indeed, the
American Telemedicine Association reports that more
than half of all hospitals in the U.S. use some form of
Telemedicine has transformed the way we learn
about surgery. In Dr. Halsted’s time, a surgeon
might travel overseas to learn state-of-the-art procedures from the innovators of those techniques. With
telementoring—the practice of having an experienced,
senior surgeon remotely guide a less experienced, junior
surgeon through a procedure—surgeons no longer need
to travel to learn about a new operation. As a result,
telementoring has gained popularity, especially among
physicians in rural or austere environments, as a means
to learn new techniques and seek advice from more
The clear advantage of telementoring is its natural integration with minimally invasive surgical
techniques. For example, Treter and colleagues have
described the use of telementoring to instruct surgeons in remote locations how to perform posterior
retroperitoneoscopic adrenalectomy, concluding that
“cyberspace consultation is safe.”35 Telementoring has
been used in various subspecialties as well, including colorectal, pediatric, head and neck, and urologic
Interestingly, the benefits of surgical telementoring
are not limited to surgeons. Kirkpatrick and colleagues
found that the telepresence of a surgeon significantly
improved the confidence of nonsurgeons when they
were performing a procedure.36 This underscores the
utility and versatility of telementoring as an effective
educational tool for a range of health care professionals.
Teleconferencing also has had a profound effect on
surgical education. In trauma surgery, for example,
the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma
(AAST) hosts monthly grand rounds transmitted via
teleconferencing to its many member institutions.
These grand rounds cover a multitude of topics pertinent to the care of trauma patients and connect trauma
surgeons from across the country to the nation’s leading