SimTunes Working to Improve Maternal & Fetal Mortality in Military Hospitals, Safety for Ebola Health Care Providers

Contact: Heather Woolwine

Nov 16, 2016

CHARLESTON, SC – SimTunes, LLC, has commenced work on two contracts valued up to $11 million over the next three years to improve maternal and fetal mortality in U.S. military hospitals and safety training for Ebola health care providers. The contracts were awarded by the Department of Defense (DoD) for one year and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for six months, respectively.

Established in 2008, SimTunes is a spinoff company of Health Care Simulation of South Carolina (HCSSC) as part of the MUSC SmartState Center for Clinical Effectiveness and Patient Safety led by John Schaefer, M.D. SimTunes is led by Chief Executive Officer Heyward Coleman. The Charleston-based company is part of an overarching strategy for the region to create jobs and increase discoveries related to the knowledge-based economy.

Both contracts can be renewed for up to three years and were awarded after a competitive bid process open to all U.S. companies. The DoD contract is targeted to improve maternal and infant mortality in all military hospitals (36 inside the continental United States and 14 in foregin countries) by providing training at each hospital with simulations of obstetrical emergencies. All branches of the military will have standardized training in obstetrical and newborn emergency care. Through HCSSC, MUSC, the Laerdal Medical Corporation (Norway) and Limbs & Things Corporation (UK) will serve as project subcontractors. The primary obstetrical simulator used in this project, SimMom (Laerdal Medical), includes an MUSC patent developed by Schaefer and Carol Simmons, M.D., MUSC Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Donna Johnson, M.D., chairwoman of the MUSC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology said, “Simulation improves obstetrical outcomes by allowing teams to rehearse rare and potentially catastrophic events. MUSC Maternal Fetal Medicine currently participates in the Birth Outcome Initiative statewide simulation project to improve maternal and child health in South Carolina, and we look forward to collaborating with SimTunes on this important project.”

Additional project collaboration team leaders include Kathy Lehman Huskamp, M.D., MUSC Emergency Preparedness and Planning director, and Jerry Reves, M.D., MUSC College of Medicine dean emeritus.

The training is based on proving clinical competence through simulation. Much like military and commercial aviator training, simulators will be used for military care providers to learn and practice how to manage obstetrical and baby emergencies using manikins programmed by scientific educators and distributed to all hospitals. The performance of various teams will be measured electronically and results stored centrally for the Military Health System (MHS) to monitor the proficiency of its medical staff at 50 hospitals. At the same time, health statistics at each facility will measure the effectiveness of this new training on clinical outcomes.

“Objective and standardized data and reporting, both within and across all 50 hospitals, is a key innovative component of this solution,” Schaefer said. “This will be the first time for high fidelity, manikin-based simulation testing at this level, and I am optimistic that our work will more widely open the door for use of simulation in health care like it is used in other ‘high-risk, high-cost’ domains such as commercial aviation where simulation-based certifications are tied to pilot licensure through federal law in the name of public safety.”

The CDC contract is through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, designed to bring creative solutions to current problems. SimTunes plans to create an Ebola simulation training course to offer as a product to all hospitals to use in educating their staff how to optimally care for patients with Ebola or possibly other very dangerous infectious diseases.

“Ebola illustrated how easily an infectious disease can spread all over the world with today’s modern travel habits, and new viruses will continue to emerge,” Lehman-Huskamp said. “Hospitals are going to have to figure out a way to take care of what is termed ‘high-risk infectious disease’ because these diseases are very contagious and deadly. This is not a small feat and by many providers may be considered an overwhelming feat. We are trying to provide hospitals a user-friendly training tool that basically tells them how to get started on this journey toward better preparedness.”

After the development process is completed and the simulation thoroughly tested, the product would be available for sale to hospitals nationwide and around the world.

The simulation program at MUSC was created in 2006 with the help of South Carolina lottery money through the SmartState program and matching philanthropic funding to endow and recruit talent to the state. Schaefer was recruited to serve and lead the program as the Lewis W. Haskell Blackman endowed chair for patient simulation and research. He then formed Health Care Simulation of South Carolina, leading to the establishment of more than 15 new, simulation-based education programs at university (MUSC, University of South Carolina, Clemson), technical education (Trident Technical College) and hospital systems (Greenville Health System) throughout South Carolina. Those programs perform more than 100,000 simulations a year for nursing and medical students, hospital health care workers, medical residents, and practicing physicians and nurses.

“These new contracts are prime examples of the positive impact envisioned by our state legislators in starting the SmartState program, as well as an example of the national impact we are capable of having at MUSC as we continue to focus on health innovation,” Schaefer said.

About SimTunes, LLC
SimTunes, LLC, was established in 2008 as a spinoff of Health Care Simulation of South Carolina. Led by Heyward Coleman of Charleston, S.C., the company has successfully started, in conjunction with the Laerdal Corp and HealthStream, the SimStore, which is the first commercial outlet for licensable simulation content in health care. Content developed at MUSC and sub-licensed through SimTunes is currently used in 48 states and 13 countries worldwide for health care training.


About MUSC

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is the state's only comprehensive academic health system, with a unique mission to preserve and optimize human life in South Carolina through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates more than 3,200 students in six colleges – Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy – and trains more than 900 residents and fellows in its health system. MUSC brought in more than $300 million in research funds in fiscal year 2023, leading the state overall in research funding. MUSC also leads the state in federal and National Institutes of Health funding. Learn more about our academic programs.

As the health care system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest-quality and safest patient care while educating and training generations of outstanding health care providers and leaders to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Patient care is provided at 16 hospitals (includes owned or governing interest), with approximately 2,700 beds and four additional hospital locations in development, more than 350 telehealth sites and nearly 750 care locations situated in all regions of South Carolina. In 2023, for the ninth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health University Medical Center in Charleston the Number 1 hospital in South Carolina. Learn more about our patient services.

MUSC has a total enterprise annual operating budget of $5.9 billion. The nearly 26,000 MUSC family members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers, scientists, students, affiliates and care team members who deliver groundbreaking education, research, and patient care.