VR for Medical Education, Training and Upskilling
Virtual Reality (VR) has gone a long way since its first implementation into healthcare. In our previous articles we looked at the importance of VR technology in healthcare as well as ways VR can be used for medical intervention and rehabilitation. Today, we would like to concentrate on the benefits of VR for medical education, training and upskilling. It is no news that Virtual Reality continues to accelerate in growth and implementation worldwide, driven by the challenges that the ongoing pandemic has brought. We continue to adapt to working in the new realities of on and off lockdowns, social distancing, travel restrictions and other required safety measurements.
It has become exponentially more difficult for many healthcare specialists to continue with education and training, especially when it comes to mastering new equipment, protocols or procedures. Medical institutions have started their exploration of the capabilities of immersive technology to find means and continue educating their specialists as well strive to potentially reduce costs. There is a number of benefits VR can bring to achieve both the need for education as well as effective cost management strategies.
One of the paramount capabilities of Virtual Reality lies in the possibility to precisely re-create environments, which allows to submerge users into any training scenario with maximum realism and level of immersion. As VR continues to grow in fidelity, driven by the technology skill development and vaster availability of VR devices, here are a few ways how its implementation can enhance medical education, training and upskilling.
Aside from the general knowledge base most medical training requires hands-on education, which is both costly and exponentially difficult in times of pandemic. When it comes to high-risk procedures, VR can be the tool to help specialist learn or upskill in a risk-free environment. In VR medical specialists can be submerged into a variety of training scenarios where they can practice their decision making, react to rapid condition changes, have hands-on practice of a variety of skills from intubation to performing different surgical procedures. Unlike standard manikins and PC based simulators, VR helps specialists build a sense of accomplishment stimulated by the visual simulation that blurs the tactile barrier. Thus specialists can practice high-risk medical procedures in a controlled, patient safe environment, maintaining and growing their skill levels.
It has always been essential for medical specialist to continue learning and training throughout the entire duration of their careers, advancing skills, exchanging knowledge, learning new procedures and practices. At times when the need to social distance poses many questions for how in person education processes should be conducted, medical facilitates have turned to VR for remote collaboration and training. The main advantage of virtual reality is in its capability to simultaneously bring individuals from around the world into one environment. This capability can be used to great advantage when it comes to the need of travel related costs reduction, adding flexibility to the schedules and allowing for more frequent interactions amongst specialists. Remote collaboration serves as a great tool to remain connected within the medical community, while practicing skills and exchanging expertise.
Technology keeps on moving in the direction of becoming smaller in scale and thus more mobile. This is the case for many industries, however size optimization is a costly and time consuming advancement especially if we speak in terms of medical equipment and devices. The availability of VR allows specialist to practice their skills in a 1-to-1 replicas of medical environment set-ups, without the need to be physically present at a certain location. The complete devices, facilities and environments can be recreated in full in Virtual Reality. This helps eliminate specialist traveling or device transportation related costs, while giving the opportunity to hands-on train and upskill with the equipment of any scale, from any location in the world. The advancement in technological skills allows to now build VR simulations for equipment of any scale and complexity.
When it comes to procedures with high training related costs, where any incorrect move can become an additional expense, VR can serve as an excellent tool to initialize the training process and prepare specialist in the virtual environment. This can help reduce the potential number of in-training errors by providing specialists with an opportunity to have the hands-on practice prior to interacting with the actual device or equipment. The VR simulation allows to build confidence and reduce the stress factor, while helping specialists obtain the procedure or device related knowledge and skills. Thus the confidence and the sense of accomplishment built during the VR training carries on, supporting further skill development with the actual procedure of device.
VR can serve as an excellent tool to enhance highly repetitive tasks as it allows to bring elements of gamification into the training process helping build cognitive memory in an engaging and efficient way. The technology gives a wide scope of possibilities to train medical specialist on different level of task complexity. The VR trainings can be build including a variation of levels, from designing scenarios that require following simple procedure steps to operating medical devices of high complexity. Looking at the possibilities of costs optimization, VR can serve as an immersive tool that helps cut down on the necessary training materials and equipment as it gives the possibility to bring and interact with all of elements of the real world into the virtual environment.
As the pandemic caused uncertainty still remains as one of the main topics globally, it is essential to find ways to continue innovating and moving forward, for the medical sector and healthcare in general. Looking ahead, Virtual Reality is bound to become more widely used in medical institutions, with the potential of being vastly incorporate into the medical student’s university trainings. As the integration of immersive technology is already in full speed, we are bound to see more healthcare and education VR entwined breakthroughs in the nearest future.