7 Steps to Achieving Record Growth For Your Healthcare Simulation Program: Part 1

growing a simulation program

This month we have been covering key business considerations your simulation teams needs to have in place to build or expand your program. Previous articles in this series include the “Language of Sales – How to Increase Your Simulation Budget” and “3 Key Resources to Expand Your simulation Program“.

In today’s article I share how as the Director of the Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas, I was able to secure $250,000 in external business contracts in just two years. These additional funds helped the center hire additional staff and purchases new equipment. So, note that although this article focuses on external contracts, a lost of the materials presented here will also help you expand your simulation services to internal departments within your institution.

The discussion focuses on 7 key areas necessary to create a successful sales funnel for your simulation services, the first 3 of which we will cover today:

  1. Gaining support
  2. Building a program
  3. Seizing opportunities
  4. Marketing yourself
  5. Providing quality services
  6. Securing feedback
  7. Perfecting systems.

1. Gain Support

Before building an external simulation program, I knew I would need to gain the support of the executive leadership of our department to spend time and energy focusing on clients outside our internal stakeholders. At the CSCLV this leadership was the Deans of the collaborative schools sharing the space (all of whom were under the roof of the Nevada System of Higher Education UNLV, NSC, and UNSOM).

After our first year of utilization I was able to show the deans that our center’s spaces were not being utilized during many nights and weekends. This was followed up by the reminder of an opportunity to “rent” those spaces to groups that may be interested in training healthcare learners or being in a healthcare looking facility without actual patients. The deans agreed that an exploration of external business development could help to cover the costs not only for the staff time needed to manage those engagements, but additional staff time to help our own programs and also pay for new equipment in the future when needed.

The deans reminded me that I would need to get permission for a special account from the State system to take in revenue, and that I would need to generate a contract template for external users to protect the center — one that included a demand for proof of insurance by the external programs to cover any accidents. Following this I met with the Center’s legal support out of UNLV to address all of these concerns in-order to get the final sign off on starting an external program.

2. Build a Program

The most important thing to remember when starting the development of a new simulation program, internal or external, is to start small. By creating a successful program that is manageable and repeatable, your team can “rinse and repeat” on cruise control while reserving development energies for bigger projects. Remember that teams fatigue by new information, new processes, new technologies, and new systems. By aiming too high in the beginning, we risk exhausting ourselves and our programs. With a smaller program, we can be sure not to extend our resources too far too quickly and burn out. Remember, the longterm success of the program is the goal — and smaller steps will help us to build upon our achievements and ultimately move farther, faster.

This mindset helped our team pick our first external client, the ATLS course from the County Hospital next door. The group was looking for a new host to provide the space for the training, and store the materials necessary for the courses. Their educators would provide the training, and the local marketing. Our team would store their equipment, provide them space, provide additional marketing, and secure a small fee for our work.


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This 2-day smaller program enabled our team to work through hundreds of issues that came up without overwhelming us from our “8 to 5” work for internal users of our simulation program. Items like catering, collecting payments, scheduling, contracts, and security concerns were addressed during the 2 months leading up to the first event. How we would deal with parking and directions to the room itself needed to be considered! Profits from this program were small at just about $1500 per weekend event.

Obviously we learned a great deal from the first program at the Center which we incorporated in future events (more on this later). The important thing to note here is that following this course we could now handle bigger, longer, and more expensive programs for external clients. Following this we launched simulation based training courses in partnership with an external consultant that lasted 4-5 days and required a great deal more support by our team for simulation experiences, marketing, and administration. Profits from these events increased to about $6,000 per event.

Following the successful completion of several such trainings, we were ready for multi-week programs with local hospitals and private schools that ended up generating $50,000+ contracts. Had we started from nothing to this high level of service I am sure we would have failed to provide high quality programs which are necessary to ensure supporting long-term relationships and positive testimonials, while minimizing staff stress levels.

3. Seize Opportunities

Consider what makes your simulation program special? What services can your team, center, program provide that internal stakeholders or external clients may need? Think small and think big: what local groups could benefit from ongoing long-term training engagements and what international groups would visit your center for one-off specialized training programs? What equipment does your program already have access to which is rare? Are you located in a travel destination?

The CSCLV is located in Las Vegas, which means that it can attract individuals from around the world that are interested in gaining necessary CEUs/CMUs while traveling to a fun location. What unique opportunities does your equipment, faculty, program, and city offer to potential clients?

Another benefit of Las Vegas is its close proximity to Hollywood, which helped Our Sim Center Have Its Most Profitable Day Ever. Production companies will pay big bucks to rent facilities that look like clinical locations but that don’t have real patients to worry about.

Knowing what you can offer local, regional, national, and international clients will enable you to identify and build programs which will speak to and attract new business to your program.

Are you interested in a deeper dive into these topics?

Check out the 8 recorded sessions from the HealthySimAdmin event for free after Subscribing to the HealthySim Monthly Newsletter!

Next week we will move on Part 2 of this article, which provides us with 4 more insights necessary to grow your simulation program: Marketing, Delivery, Feedback and Growth!


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Save $200 on WISER’s October iSIM Course to Improve Simulation Instructional Methods

simulation instructional training course

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The program is intended for healthcare professionals and educators who are interested in improving their instructional skills. Each participant will engage in an interactive experience and gain knowledge and skills to enhance their ability to design and conduct simulation-based learning and assessment activities.

The course has been designed and is actively facilitated by internationally renowned experts in simulation and faculty development from WISER at The University of Pittsburgh, and The Gordon Center for Research in Medical Education at the University of Miami. This course will prepare educators to enhance their skills using simulation methods. The iSIM course is held at WISER in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania three times a year.

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Polhemus Provides Hand Motion Tracking Systems for Surgical Simulators

polhemus motion tracking for surgical simulators

How do surgical simulators know your exact hand placement at all times? Brands like SimSurgery work with Motion Tracking Systems like the PATRIOT from Polhemus. If you or your team are building advanced simulators, be sure to learn what Polhemus can do for your innovative project!

Polhemus is proud to provide the enabling technology that powers SEP. SimSurgery uses the Polhemus PATRIOT system in the SEP simulator. Specifically, the SEP system allows surgical students to train and learn surgical skills, such as hand-eye coordination, use of endoscope and surgical instruments, tissue manipulation, and other procedural skills before operating on patients.

When reviewing tracking options, PATRIOT was top choice. According to Vidar Sorhus, PhD, CTO, SimSurgery, “The reason for this selection is the combination of performance, cost, and size of the PATRIOT system–we needed a system with two trackers that we could embed into our simulation hardware.” The PATRIOT sensors are not only easily embedded, but due to the true 6DOF the PATRIOT delivers, the SEP system can track both position and orientation of laparoscopic instruments. The tracked position and orientation data is used as input to real-time 3D simulation of surgical techniques and procedures.

For this application, SimSurgery needed a high level of accuracy and repeatability of position and orientation values, as well as a high update rate. PATRIOT was the perfect solution to achieve this. According to Vidar Sorhus of SimSurgery, “A great advantage of the PATRIOT tracking system used in SEP is that it measures the position and orientation of the free instruments without having the instruments anchored in a mechanical measurement system. This feature makes the simulator user interface very flexible and allows the user to freely select an instrument port. As a consequence, the system can be used to simulate scenarios with any port configurations, including single incision laparoscopic surgery.”

Learn more at the Polhemus Website!


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Peak TV Show Covers St. Luke’s University Health Network Simulation Medical School

simulation center interview

Medical simulation helps bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-life hands on experience for medical students. Joining us in the studio is Dr. Joel Rosenfeld, Chief Academic Officer for Temple University Medical School at St. Luke’s.

The PEAK is the Greater Lehigh Valley’s PREMIER lifestyle show featuring the latest medical news, personal fitness, healthy cooking and eating, exciting places and trends, and giving back in our community! If it’s innovative, informative, and fun — you’ll find it on The PEAK!

About St. Luke’s Simulation Center

State-of-the-art clinical simulation centers, located at both the Philadelphia North Broad Street and the Bethlehem St. Luke’s campuses, provide students with outstanding opportunities to develop their clinical and procedural skills. These centers include both robotic simulators and standardized patients as well as a variety of procedural skills training equipment. High fidelity, programmable robotic simulators imitate physiologic and clinical scenarios that clinicians may encounter. Small groups of students work together to assess the “patient’s” problem and to develop and implement a management plan.

A faculty member observes the group, then debriefs the students about the encounter to develop their skills for future encounters with patients. Students develop their history-taking and physical examination skills and professional behaviors through sessions with standardized patients and patient instructors. The opportunity to work first with standardized patients (who simulate real medical cases) helps to build students’ confidence towards the time when they will encounter real patients. Life-like task trainers (arms, head/neck, torsos, and other portions of the body) allow students to build their skills in performing a range of procedures such as phlebotomy, airway management, suturing, and urinary catheterization.

Students interested in surgery may begin to develop basic surgical skills during their preclinical years by participating in surgical interest groups and electives.

Learn How to Gain Media Attention for Your Sim Lab!

U.S. Army Awards Portion of $135M Medical Simulation Contract to ECS

Engineering & Computer Simulations us army medical simulation

Big news for US federal investment into healthcare simulation today with news that recently the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) has awarded two contracts to Engineering and Computer Simulations (ECS) for research & development services designed to demonstrate and advance state-of-the-art simulation and training technologies. The goal of the initiative, called Simulation, Training and Engineering Services (STES), is to produce training/simulation systems that can adapt over time to changing Army needs and conditions. STES addresses three technical areas — TA 1: advanced simulation; TA 2: medical simulation; and TA 3: squad and small-team research. ECS will be developing simulations for medical simulation and squad and small-team research.

Waymon Armstrong, CEO of ECS, said: “Our depth and range of simulation experience enables us to deliver effective simulations for both medical and warfighter training. Because our designers and engineers are highly skilled with decades of experience in all aspects of military executions, they quickly comprehend the need and design solutions that achieve the desired result. The training solution may be based on a platform we’ve already produced for another client or military Program of Record. That means significant cost saving to the client, or if needed we can custom design the training tool.’

ECS was awarded portions of the $135M U.S. Army contract, which may be the single largest investment into healthcare systems by a non-corporate vendor.

About ECS

Our values are also reflected in our commitment to listen to and to understand our customers’ challenges to provide them with the right solutions on time and on budget. ECS dedicates itself to using the highest business standards to produce solutions that are custom tailored to our clients’ needs. Our mission is to improve the quality and efficiency of learning and preparedness through the use of ECS’ advanced learning technologies. Most of our custom solutions and products are derived from these core competencies. In a sense, these provide the foundation for how many of our solutions are developed. However, we are always learning new skills and more importantly, how to apply new skills to maximize return on investment for our customers.

Learn more at the ECS website Press Release!

3 Key Resources to Expand Your Simulation Program

how to expand medical simluation program

Recently HealthySimulation.com started a discussion regarding the business of simulation with our article the “Language of Sales – How to Increase Your Simulation Budget”. In the article we explained how we as simulation champions must be prepared new skillsets to help advocate, expand, and finance the growth of our programs to higher levels of our institutional organizations.

Today we are going to share some must-read books that will help you gain valuable insights into communicating the opportunities of simulation to administrative leadership and c-suite executives.

The three key areas to focus on are selling, marketing, and networking:

To expand your simulation program you will first need to build a network of support, from community members, educators, innovators, managers, administrators, and executives. The work of building and maintaining a network should not be overlooked by the leadership of your simulation program. Connecting and building relationships with internal and external stakeholders will provide you the opportunity to gain support for your eventual expansion.

Marketing campaigns will be required to attract and educate those within your network about your services, needs, and achievements. Simulation program leadership should recognize the short and long-term value gained from physical and virtual tours, special events, speaking engagements, conference attendance and the like. Read our article on “How to Add Multimedia To Your Simulation Program Website” to gain more ideas here.

Next, you will need to learn how to convey your message of need in a way that successfully gains support from all stakeholders involved. A strategy will need to be created with tactics that utilize the strengths of your team and your supporters.

Not only do key individuals need to be identified, but their priorities and pain points as well. Who speaks to stakeholders, and how, is just as important as what is said. The priorities of a dean of a nursing school will be different from the priorities of a CNO. Having previous networks and relationships established is only the first step to gaining support for program expansions, and learning how to “sell” the concept of simulation is a core requirement for you and your team.

Lastly, you will need to be prepared to deal with eventual “Simulation Discomfiters, The Anti-Champions Who Frustrate Our Programs“. Having a plan for ways to communicate, and overcome, those that will avoid or discredit your program should be in place as your program plans to grow. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Of course, this is just the beginning of work necessary to create and maintain simulation expansion programs. Obviously you will also need some kind of business plan.

We will continue deeper dives into all these areas over the weeks to come, but for now — check out those additional books and articles!

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Esper Augmented Reality Trainer from 3D4Medical Will Change the Way We Learn Anatomy

augmented reality virtual learning anatomy

3D4Medical Labs makes award-winning medical and fitness software. Their applications are used daily by education and clinical organizations around the globe. They have over 12 million downloads, numerous prestigious awards, and appearances on stage at major industry events. Their anatomical models are the most detailed available on consumer devices, which they build by studying real anatomical structures, and combining them with world-class medical knowledge.

Straight from the 3D4Medical Lab, discover how you will interact with the anatomy using augmented and mixed reality with their new Project Esper. Take a look at the future of medical learning with the video above about this world-class education tool that utterly transforms the way people learn about the human body.

Learn more on the 3D4Medical Labs website!

NASA Mars Mission Crew Emerges From Yearlong Simulation In Hawaii

simulated mission to mars

A leading force for the use of simulation, NASA just completed a ground-breaking study on the affects of a year long simulated experiment to prepare for a mission to Mars. Have a simulation non-believer in your institution? Share this story below with them to show how high stakes organizations use simulation to learn, improve, train, and test.

One year ago, six volunteers—an astrobiologist, a physicist, a pilot, an architect, a journalist, and a soil scientist — entered a 36-by-20 foot dome, located near a barren volcano in Hawaii, to simulate what living conditions would be like on Mars. This week they re-emerged from their year-long isolation.

“The goal of HI-SEAS is to test what it would be like for people to live on Mars, and what the project designers call “team performance and cohesion” — or how a group of strangers might handle being stuck together for 12 months.

Asked what she learned about how to cope with living and working with the same five people all the time, Heinicke said emergencies play a surprising role in helping people get along. At one point, for example, the system for gathering and treating water broke. To simulate life on Mars, the team received water and food only every two and four months, respectively. “Obviously, we need water, so we all needed to work on that as a group,” Heinicke recalled.

“If you had some arguments within the group… it really helps to have an emergency to work on together, because everyone has new motivation,” she said. The study designers described the small dome where the crew lived as a “habitat,” writing in a press release: “It is an open concept design that includes common areas such as kitchen, dining, bathroom with shower, lab, exercise, and work spaces. A second floor loft spans an area of 424 square feet and includes six separate bedrooms and a half bath.

In addition, a 160 square foot workshop converted from a 20 foot long steel shipping container is attached to the habitat.” Living in such close quarters is difficult. Asked whether the experience left her with any close friends, Heinicke was diplomatic. “Um, well, three of them I’m definitely going to stay in very close contact with,” she said.”

For us it’s easy to see how NASA has proven the effectiveness of simulation with this, and countless other simulated training programs.

Read articles about the Mars Simulation Mission on Popular MechanicsNPR, BBC, and Gizmodo!

Last Day to Take Advantage of Summer Savings from Cardionics on Auscultation Trainers!

auscultation training

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Does Residency Simulated Training Have an Impact on Patient Outcomes in Robotic Surgery

simulated training

Christopher Simmonds from Mimic Technologies recently shared on LinkedIN some interesting research statistics regarding the patient results from simulated training in surgery.

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Like any new technology, a lot of focus has been placed on ensuring that new users of robotic surgery are adequately trained. Simulation has had a large part to play with this. As the technology has become more mainstream, training requirements have moved from not only training existing surgeons but to ensuring that residents and fellows develop the required skill levels to ensure that they can adapt to the new technologies used in their practice.

Earlier this year we discussed a paper published by the EAU on their curriculum aimed at ensuring that fellows followed a clear curriculum at the end of which they would be deemed to be safe and competent to operate on patients independently. As with many ways of teaching surgery, the procedure is broken into specific steps that the trainee must master before being allowed to carry the whole procedure.

There were no differences in some key clinical outcomes such as positive margins, length of stay, catheter days, readmissions or re-operations when comparing surgeon only to resident –involved cases. There was, however, a difference seen in mean operative time between procedures that were surgeon only cases vs. resident involved (190.4 Min vs. 206.4 Min, P= 0.003)

Read the full article on LinkedIn