In interventional radiology, physicians require high haptic sensitivity and fine motor skills development because of the limited real-time visual feedback of the surgical site. The transfer of this type of surgical skill to novices is a challenging issue. This paper presents a study on the design of a biopsy procedure learning system. Our methodology, based on a task-centered design approach, aims to bring out new design rules for virtual learning environments. A new collaborative haptic training paradigm is introduced to support human-haptic interaction in a virtual environment. The interaction paradigm supports haptic communication between two distant users to teach a surgical skill. In order to evaluate this paradigm, a user experiment was conducted. Sixty volunteer medical students participated in the study to assess the influence of the teaching method on their performance in a biopsy procedure task. The results show that to transfer the skills, the combination of haptic communication with verbal and visual communications improves the novices’ performance compared to conventional teaching methods. Furthermore, the results show that, depending on the teaching method, participants developed different needle insertion profiles. We conclude that our interaction paradigm facilitates expert-novice haptic communication and improves skills transfer; and new skills acquisition depends on the availability of different communication channels between experts and novices. Our findings indicate that the traditional fellowship methods in surgery should evolve to an off-patient collaborative environment that will continue to support visual and verbal communication, but also haptic communication, in order to achieve a better and more complete skills training.

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