Dr Phil Blyth with his surgery app at the University of Otago School of Medicine Anatomy Museum yesterday. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
An app developed by a University of Otago lecturer allows
budding surgeons to practise procedures on their iPhones
rather than their patients.
The ''Bonedoc'' app - available for iPhones and iPads - is
the brainchild of Dr Phil Blyth, a senior lecturer in
eLearning in medicine and a practising emergency medicine
The app allowed everyone from trainee surgeons to gamers to
step into a virtual operating theatre and carry out a hip
fracture repair procedure - with users given a score and
''virtual dollars'' based on how the surgery went.
Dr Blyth said the inspiration for developing the app came
while he was working as an orthopaedic registrar and leading
a surgical procedure for the first time.
''[I realised] that here I am in a lead gown in the middle of
the night trying to work out the best way to proceed and
thinking 'why am I learning on this patient?'
''Isn't there a way I can work out what I am doing outside of
the operating theatre so that when I am here I know what I am
doing and can just do it?''
He envisaged surgeons using the app - which replicated all
the steps in the procedure - in the minutes leading up to
For gamers it was like an app version of the board game
Operation - with one key difference.
''The things that you are learning here are real skills, so
maybe the teenager of today [could say] I want to be a
surgeon in the future.''
Using apps as a way to learn surgical skills would become
more important as surgery got less invasive, which made
procedures difficult to replicate outside the operating
Dr Blyth has more apps in the works, including a juvenile hip
procedure and a knee operation.
Dr Graham Strong, of Otago Innovation - which helped develop
the app - congratulated Dr Blyth on the app.
''Phil is unique. Not only is he a fantastic medical
professional but he has taught himself to code effectively.''
The app was hooked up to the Apple Game Centre so users could
compete for the highest score with friends or even other
The app is available from bonedoc.org or the Apple AppStore
and an Android version is being readied for release next