Chase Anderson and Samantha Estevez, first-year medical students, stared at the iPad screen, watching the volume and aortic pressure of the simulated heart change as they increased the preload, the initial stretching of cardiac cells prior to contraction.
The team worked together to better understand concepts of cardiovascular physiology and hemodynamics through a first-of-its kind iPad app called Harvi. The students worked in pairs to encourage discussion.
“The iPad is a platform that we’re familiar with and the visual interaction is engaging and exciting,” said Estevez. “The simulation reinforces the concepts we’ve gone over in class and shows us how everything in the heart is interconnected.”
The app covers topics such as the cardiac cycle, pressure-volume relations, preload, afterload, contractility, lusitropy and ventricular-vascular coupling. Later additions will cover advanced physiological concepts, pathophysiology, disease states and therapeutics and mechanical circulatory support.
As the students worked through a guide put together by John X. Thomas, PhD, senior associate dean for Medical Education, Anderson said the app, “allowed us to gauge and check whether we understood concepts we learned in class. The app’s visualization allowed us to find out if our prediction was right or wrong and showed us why an answer was correct.”
Holding the iPad in portrait orientation, students can read through the textbook and watch animated graphs. They can switch to the simulation at any time by rotating the iPad to landscape.
“The app gives students a perspective they can’t get by virtue of a textbook or a handout with static figures,” said Thomas, also a professor in Physiology and Medical Education. “Seeing the interplay between parameters is important for a student’s understanding of the cardiovascular system, and the dynamics of the system is well captured in the program.”
The iPad exercise was part of a six-week Cardiovascular Blood Module, which introduces first-year students to all aspects of medicine related to the cardiovascular system, including genetics, histology, anatomy, pathophysiology, physical diagnosis and disease treatment and prevention.