A new and compelling way to learn about heart health is to address bias in medical education by highlighting heart disease in women. The symptoms of a heart attack in women are often very different from those in men, and are sometimes confused with things like acid reflux or the flu. Complete HeartX was built by Elsevier’s 3D4 Medical team and aims to make it easier for students and doctors to recognize heart attacks in women.
For a long time, human anatomy was determined by the anatomy and physiology of male bodies, which means that the medicine built on fundamental ideas was not always suitable for women. In 2022, a new 3D model of the female anatomy – the Complete Anatomy by Elsevier model of the female anatomy, also built by the 3D4 Medical team – became the most advanced of its kind. His goal? Improving the treatment of female patients by providing educational materials “for the benefit of every patient” and by diversifying medical education. A goal shared by Complete HeartX.
As the first spatial computing app that teaches coronary health, Complete HeartX allows users to literally push, pull and twist the heart in any direction to examine blood flow and blockages. Clinical simulations allow students to learn everything from anatomy to blood draws in a lifelike yet safe practice room, creating a unique learning experience.
We spoke with Irene Walsh, senior director of Product & Education Design at Elsevier Health, to learn more about how Complete HeartX is helping to tackle medical bias. It is a topical conversation for February, which annually marks American Heart Month.
How does Complete HeartX address medical bias?
Irene Walsh: Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in women worldwide, including in the US and Britain. As we know, heart disease can lead to heart attack (myocardial infarction). For these reasons, we have chosen in Complete HeartX to highlight the condition of a myocardial infarction and how it can be experienced by a female patient.
Female heart attack patients are more likely to have subtler symptoms, which are often confused as less life-threatening conditions such as the flu, acid reflux, or simply aging. We see that this can lead to delayed medical intervention. At Elsevier Health we want to tackle this gender inequality, so we took the opportunity to highlight a female patient’s experience with heart attack symptoms and empower the public with this knowledge.
What is unique about Complete HeartX as an educational tool?
IW: Complete HeartX opens up a new way of learning for students, allowing them to directly connect the theory of anatomy and physiology they learn to the practice of a clinical skill within a single experience. Students can fully immerse themselves in the incredibly detailed structures of the heart, and even walk inside, to fully explore each part and its function through spatial calculations.
It is the first app of its kind for coronary education. It also bundles learning materials from some of Elsevier’s best-known and leading products, such as Gray’s anatomy textbook, osmosis videos and complete anatomy models in one experience, to give students a truly multimodal experience. This allows them to dive deep into topics while achieving key learning objectives.
Students can take blood samples in lifelike simulations.
Image credit: Complete HeartX
Do you have a favorite feature of the model?
IW: I absolutely love the simulation part, where you can learn the ‘why’ behind each step of the blood drawing process, because it is helpful on so many levels – as a patient it is a real light bulb moment to ‘look behind the curtain’ and understand why certain actions are taken, and as an aspiring healthcare provider you will learn the key steps of that skill.
Why is diversification of medical education so important?
IW: The content of medical education has traditionally been predominantly male-oriented, from male bodies to illustrations and human models. This focus on men may create a bias in the early career of medical students, which we believe could impact healthcare outcomes for female patients in the future.
As one of the leading providers of medical education materials and products, we at Elsevier see the opportunity to expand our reach and offer alternative learning paths to the medical education community, putting various resources in their hands that counteract these biases, from day one of medical school. This is the latest step we are taking to diversify medical education.
We recently did this by creating the first 3D female anatomy model in medical education with Complete Anatomy, followed by Complete Anatomy’s diverse skin color model, the world’s most diverse offering of skin color options in medical education. Until then, medical texts worldwide had been based on the white, European male model.