Category Archives: Virtual Reality Medical Training

What is XR, and How is it Transforming Healthcare?

Johns Hopkins Simulation VR team
Johns Hopkins Simulation VR team

Developments in healthcare technology are now more exciting than ever. With increasing pressure on health services, it’s now crucial to use emerging technologies to support staff, reduce human error, and improve patient outcomes.

Enter XR — a group of technologies, first seen in gaming and education, that are now shaking up all aspects of healthcare.

With the global healthcare market for XR estimated to reach $4.6bn in the US alone by 2025, XR is a game-changer for healthcare systems — and there are surprising possibilities for its use in training, recruitment, and beyond!

What is XR?

XR — or Extended Reality — is an umbrella term for all immersive technologies, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). These all “extend” our reality by blending the real world with computer-generated elements or by creating an entirely immersive virtual experience.

Virtual reality (VR)
is arguably the most well-known of all XR technologies. Using a Head-Mounted Device (HMD), like Oculus or HTC Vive, users receive a virtually immersive experience. This experience can be simple, like a 360° video of a real-life setting, or a completely interactive virtual environment. 

What are the uses of VR in healthcare? There are plenty! On the educational side, platforms such as OMS can deliver virtual clinical experiences to healthcare students and faculty alike. Other virtual reality platforms serve procedural training for specialists, such as surgeons. Beyond that, VR has direct applications to patient care, such as gamifying physical therapy sessions to speed up recovery times, and using immersive, controlled scenarios to improve outcomes in mental health patients.

Augmented reality (AR)
superimposes computer-generated content over what you see in the real world and is used mainly with phone apps and smart glasses. Though it doesn’t offer the total immersion of virtual reality, AR is a valuable tool for overlaying additional information in a real-world environment.

Augmented reality offers some fantastic benefits to healthcare training and patient care. For example, institutions have leveraged AR to improve the success rate of intravenous injection by mapping vein structures onto the surface of a patient’s skin.

Mixed reality (MR)
is similar to augmented reality in that a device projects computer-generated content. The fundamental difference is that mixed reality content is responsive and spatially aware. For example, a ball dropped in MR could bounce when it hits an object in your space, making the experience a lot more interactive.

In healthcare, mixed reality can extend the impact of more limited training equipment. One application uses MR to provide dynamic feedback on low-fidelity manikins, which helps to maximize manikin functionality and significantly improves learning outcomes.

Learners using a high-fidelity manikin in training
XR offers several benefits over resource-intensive manikin simulation
A cardiac exam taking place in virtual reality sim
VR cardiac examination

What Benefits Does XR Offer Over Physical Training?

XR revolutionizes the traditional approach to healthcare training. This is particularly true with virtual reality. 

VR simulation authentically replicates manikin-based simulation scenarios so that trainees and practitioners alike can practice safely, developing their skills and confidence in a lifelike environment, with no compromise to learner outcomes

The most exciting part about XR technologies in healthcare training? They require a smaller number of resources, reach more users, and can provide feedback on improvement over time — helping you prove that you’re getting a return on your investment.

Fewer resources

Hands-on experience with real patients is an invaluable way for healthcare trainees and professionals to develop their skills — but it comes with the added risk of putting patients’ lives in danger. Manikin-based simulation was designed to bridge this gap, allowing students to learn from their mistakes safely.

Sadly, there are still drawbacks to this method of training. To anyone familiar with physical simulation, it should come as no surprise that the setup is expensive and resource-intensive. In fact, recent research suggests that just one physical simulator costs a hefty $62,808 per year! Cost aside, the equipment requires considerable space, ongoing maintenance, and dedicated faculty to run every session. XR platforms differ in that they’re relatively inexpensive, require a fraction of the space, and many require little-to-no external supervision once configured. Virtual reality allows you to create multiple environments using the same platform — such as maternity labs and outpatient clinics — helping you deliver outstanding healthcare education to as many learners as possible.

More scalable

Because of physical simulation’s resource constraints, scaling up operations to meet demand is rarely workable. Institutions don’t always have the time, money, or faculty needed to give learners on-demand access to the training they need. The good news is that these obstacles don’t apply to XR, so you can facilitate truly flexible learning. Cost-savings, portability, and the possibility of unsupervised practice mean that users can train anywhere, at any time, repeating simulations as often as needed to hone their skills.

Better feedback

Even the best technician will find it impossible to operate a scenario exactly the same way consistently, which makes it challenging to measure cohort performance. Additionally, the debriefing process is rarely recorded, and learners can’t effectively benchmark their efforts. On the other hand, standardized XR platforms give the same experience to each user every time without fail. Even better, platforms like OMS use advanced analytics, so users can track their improvement over time and understand how to improve.

Arrange a free demo to find out how VR sim can meet your institution’s needs.

How Can XR Be Used Besides Education?

We’ve explored why XR is an ideal medium to supplement physical simulation and education in healthcare. Still, there are so many other ways that technology is useful in healthcare. This is especially true of virtual reality.

Ongoing training

Learning shouldn’t stop when students graduate. Up to 57% of new RNs leave their roles because of an inability to ensure patient safety, and a lack of ongoing training plays a key role. The portable, scalable nature of XR lends perfectly to solving this dilemma. Users are free to brush up on existing skills — and learn new ones — in a safe context before transferring their learning to actual patients. A vast library of scenarios with VR means a wide range of staff can access tailored learning opportunities. The flexibility of the tech also means that busy doctors and nurses can fit in training around their hectic schedules without too much prior scheduling.

Recruiting the best staff

With up to $250,000 invested in a single physician candidate (and around $82,000 for a nurse), hiring the right person for the job is vital. This makes virtual reality an ideal medium for hiring managers. It can help remove bias, test skills in a standardized environment, and impress top candidates by using innovative tech to show that institutions are willing to invest in staff development.

Encouraging staff retention

The average US hospital has turned over 80% of its RN workforce in the last five years, and annual physician relocation rates sit at around 11–18%. Healthcare institutions need to be investing in their workforce to promote a happier, more engaged culture. Integrating novel technologies (such as XR) into training programs can encourage job satisfaction, and analytics feedback from platforms such as OMS can help faculty identify who needs extra support. Virtual reality is also great at expanding user perspectives, which can be crucial for reducing interprofessional barriers and encouraging collaborative environments.

Improving remediation of healthcare professionals

In healthcare, ensuring patient safety is vital, so staff underperformance is a cause for concern. The problem is this: remediation programs lack uniformity, and there’s little research to suggest whether outcomes are successful. XR can help to change this by providing standardized training that easily integrates into remediation programs. Some platforms even offer detailed analytical feedback to suggest whether staff are genuinely making progress. Even better, tracking performance in this way can help to catch issues early so that institutions can proactively address concerns before patients are exposed to potential harm.


Extended reality is at the forefront of the new, exciting innovations in healthcare. It’s widely acknowledged as a formidable tool for its educational applications, but there is so much more to what AR, MR, and VR can offer. 

As champions of virtual reality healthcare simulation, we’re particularly excited about the possibilities that VR provides in training competent nurses and physicians, hiring the best candidates, encouraging retention in valued employees, and supporting healthcare professionals to practice safely and elevate their performance.


Why VR is an Essential Tool for Healthcare Training

Why VR is an Essential Tool for Healthcare Training
Why VR is an Essential Tool for Healthcare Training

Can you imagine a world where to learn, you must put lives at risk?

Though it seems unfathomable now, this was the reality not too long ago. Historically, doctors and nurses used to learn in lectures – then be released onto the wards to practice on patients, learning from their mistakes as they delivered care — mistakes that could put patients’ lives in danger.

Over time, an increasing focus on patient safety spurred the development of physical simulation – the techniques around practicing with manikins and actors. Simulation allowed clinicians to learn from their mistakes safely, and has been widely adopted over time.

Despite this, the healthcare industry faces a problem: medical error is costing patients their lives, being reported as the third leading cause of death in hospitals, behind only cancer and cardiovascular disease.

In the US, despite a nearly $3 billion annual investment from Medicare towards direct graduate medical education, new resident doctors are responsible for 81% of malpractice claims. And error is not confined to doctors. Fifty percent of entry-level nurses are involved in practice errors, and only 23% of nurses graduate feeling prepared for practice.

Essentially, students and healthcare professionals need more opportunities to build confidence and competence allowing them to perform at their best the moment they set foot on the clinical floor.

So how do we create more opportunities to practice in simulation, in a way that’s realistic, repeatable, and available whenever and wherever it’s needed?

Say hello to virtual reality! Here’s why VR is ideal for training well-prepared staff and improving patient care at every step.

Evolution to simulation using manikins
Traditional simulation utilising a CPR manikin
Johns Hopkins Student Nurse
Evolution of simulation to Virtual Reality

1. Immersive, experiential learning

Experiential learning — learning through first-hand experience — plays a key role in creating capable healthcare professionals. Studies highlight it as a key process for developing self-awareness and compassion towards patients. The problem is that it can be hard to practice in traditional curriculums and training programs.

Without frequent, hands-on practice, clinical competence – and healthcare provider’s confidence in their abilities – quickly deteriorates. Training repeatedly, as allowed by VR – can helps to bridge the gap, providing accessible, on-demand experiential learning.

VR technology is perfect for experiential learning. It immerses users, convincing the brain into believing the experience is real. When a user slips on the HMD (head-mounted device), they can treat virtual patients as they would in real life. No matter the stage of a healthcare professional’s career, virtual reality can deliver experiences that ‘feel real’ and become integral to healthcare education and training.

“It makes me feel like I am dealing with real patients. However, I’m not afraid of making mistakes and this has increased my confidence and practical skills.”

— Nursing Student Using OMS

Experiential learning enables users to carry their learning into the real world long after a simulation ends. This means healthcare workers are more equipped and confident to deal with any obstacle they face. In virtual reality, the benefits of experiential learning are remarkable. Research shows VR simulation not only improves performance across medical professions — it also significantly decreases the chance of fatal errors.

At OMS, we authentically replicate real-world clinical experiences, allowing learners to get the most out of their experience. Our AI-driven patients are dynamic and adaptive, deteriorating if they don’t receive appropriate (and timely) treatment. Learners can prepare for the realities of patient care while honing their ability to recognize symptoms.

2. Train anywhere, any time

VR provides true scalability. It’s up to 20 times cheaper than manikin-based training, requires no patient or faculty involvement, and the hardware is easily storable when not in use.

Once it’s up and running, VR simulation software is available to use 24/7. Learners are free to tailor their learning around their schedules, which is a bonus for busy practitioners with limited time to spare.

Standardized VR simulation scenarios provide an infinitely repeatable learning experience. Scenarios unfold differently depending on how a learner engages with a patient, with no risk to the patient no matter what the learner does. This means that learners can make mistakes safely and without anxiety until they are confident in a scenario.

Developing this confidence is crucial to creating independent, capable healthcare staff. A 2020 report highlighted poor clinical decision-making as a factor in 65% of entry-level nurse errors; it also found that just one-third of graduate nurses are confident in their practice. 

The good news is that VR simulation scenarios can significantly improve knowledge retention and self-confidence in learners, which diminishes the likelihood of medical error.

“The ability for our nursing students to practice standardized, realistic clinical scenarios whenever they need is game-changing.”

— Executive Director of Simulation, NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing

3. Personalized learning for every user

Students, trainees, and experienced professionals all have different requirements and expectations of training. Unfortunately, traditional methods make it difficult to create programs that acknowledge each learner’s individual needs.

Here’s some good news: no matter the career stage or specialization, virtual reality can train healthcare professionals in ways that work best for them.

With its combination of visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic input, VR can accommodate a range of individual learning styles. On-demand access also means learners can choose where and when they prefer to practice, providing even more customized learning.

With VR simulation, users have an extensive library of scenarios at their fingertips. A wide range of scenarios gives learners the choice to focus on specific areas of expertise or refine their general patient care. If learners vary in confidence across topics, that’s not an issue. They can repeat scenarios as little or as often as they need before they put their skills into practice.

Looking to understand the strengths and weaknesses of specific users? Leading VR simulation platforms, such as OMS, offer comprehensive analytics tracking for this reason. It’s ideal for monitoring participant performance and tailoring learning based on concrete results. It also allows learners to monitor their own progress, track improvement and adjust training accordingly. Detailed feedback, tailored to each learner’s performance, helps students and professionals alike to improve and maintain the skills they need for exceptional patient care.

The Bottom Line

Virtual reality can provide exceptional learning experiences. It’s immersive, scalable, and can be tailored to an individual’s needs. It even enables collaboration, with research suggesting that team-based VR training, such as OMS Interprofessional, could reduce patient mortality by up to 15 percent!

Optimizing training is essential to delivering the next generation of healthcare professionals and for keeping our current practitioners clinically competent. With medical errors costing up to $20 billion a year, VR simulation can bridge the gap to hone skills, encourage staff retention, and make a remarkable difference to patient care.

Ready to see what VR simulation can do? Arrange a free live demo with us today.

OMS named as finalists at the VR Awards

OMS Interprofessional makes the finals of the 2020 VR Awards

We are honored and excited to have been nominated as a finalist for the 2020 VR Awards for OMS Interprofessional.

OMS Interprofessional is the multiplayer virtual reality platform from Oxford Medical Simulation. Designed to provide immersive training opportunities for doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals, OMS Interprofessional lets clinicians work together wherever they are in the world. 

A doctor in California can now work with a nurse in Oxford and a facilitator in Baltimore to treat virtual patients. Participants can speak to the virtual patient and each other in real time, carry out examinations, make diagnoses and provide treatments just like in real life.

They can then learn from personalized feedback and repeat as often as they need in order to provide the best care for patients in real life. Using OMS Interprofessional can optimize quality of training while freeing up time, space and money to help hospitals provide optimal patient care.

Winners will be announced in November – until then we’ve got our fingers and toes crossed! 

LEARN MORE about OMS Interprofessional LEARN MORE

Video: VR Simulation at Oxford University

VR medical simulation

Dr Sally Shiels discusses the value of VR simulation at the OxSTaR simulation centre in the Oxford University Hospital Trust

VR simulation

Dr. Sally Shiels is an anaesthetist at OxSTaR (Oxford Simulation, Teaching and Research), the purpose-built, state-of-the-art medical simulation teaching and research facility in Oxford University Hospital.

Sally discusses virtual reality’s impact on training for medical students and clinicians, how immersive technology is supporting patient safety, and the types of programs the OxSTaR center are developing.

“Providing our students with virtual patients has been an absolute sea change in terms of medical education” 

Using OMS has allowed OxSTaR to expand their training capabilities, preparing medical students more fully for clinical practice, in order to improve patient safety.

“We’re taking our students into a virtual world where they can learn safely, and that is really important, because then they feel safe to make mistakes.”

Learn more about the work Oxford University are doing with OMS using the link below, or see PharmaComms TV for the original content.



Virtual Reality World Tech Magazine: Informed Immersion

Immersive technology is making significant strides in training medical professionals and as a treatment in health and wellness.

There are many ways that virtual reality (VR) can be applied in healthcare – from training medical professionals to aiding surgeons through visualisation or even robotics. But where is immersive tech really excelling right now, and what is it achieving for patients and medical professionals alike?

In the article below, Dr Jack Pottle, Chief Medical Officer at Oxford Medical Simulation, speaks to VR World Tech – discussing the views and often misconceptions that institutions have about immersive tech…

Read the full interview here


What is VR simulation good for in 2020?

Every year, January brings the largest event in the global simulation calendar: IMSH. This year, we were excited by the ongoing and mounting interest in virtual reality simulation and improved learner outcomes.


Shifting perspectives 

At IMSH this year we noticed a marked shift in the awareness and understanding of VR simulation in the wider simulation community. 

Back in 2019, people were asking, “What do you mean exactly when you say ‘VR?’”. This year we were instead asked “VR has been around for a few years… what’s it good for?” and “Is it practical enough to be used meaningfully for sim?”. 

These are excellent questions. 

Here, we look at some of the ways that VR sim can be used to; create efficiencies, optimize data and encourage flexible learning – including some of the crucial concepts to consider when looking to implement a VR platform in your simulation facility.

Doing More with Less

Physical (mannikin-based) simulation involves significant overhead costs. Research has shown that faculty/admin hours, equipment, maintenance, space, and consumables contribute to an average cost of $390 to deliver just one traditional simulation session(13).

In contrast, immersive VR is instantly scalable, allowing institutions to deliver more simulation experiences to their learners at a greatly reduced cost. Because VR simulation is repeatable and can be used without faculty supervision – meaning engaging clinical experiences can be provided using fewer valuable resources.

One recent study showed “no significant differences in quantitative measures of learning or performance” in VR vs. physical sim, but demonstrated that VR sim was more affordable(4). Institutions have capitalized on using VR to deliver sim that is 5 – 50x cheaper than physical sim.

The ultimate goal of using VR for sim is to increase access to this incredibly powerful teaching method and make simulation part of everyday life (not just when learners are in the sim center).

Consideration #1

When seeking to implement VR sim, make sure you consider whether or not you are looking for a faculty-independent platform that will free up the time needed to run simulation sessions, as not all solutions offer this.

Supporting Data-Driven Simulation

Collecting information about a learner’s performance and behavior during physical sim can be time-consuming and often requires subjective input. Using standardized simulations in immersive VR allows educators to deliver more simulation experiences whilst leveraging the data-tracking and analytic power of a technology-based system. 

This push towards data-driven learning experiences makes 2020  one of the most exciting times to be working in simulation and is empowering institutions to further the use of sim in ways previously considered impossible.

The most immediate – and important – use of this data is to support the performance improvement of learners. However, these analytics can further be used to research clinical behavior, supplement assessment techniques, and aid in recruitment processes.

Sim educators have historically struggled to show the economic impact of their efforts. Now, for the first time in history, having simple access to the type of data VR-based systems offer allows instructors to justify sim implementation to key stakeholders who are increasingly asking simulationists to “measure the effectiveness of what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.(5)

Consideration #2 

Platforms that offer standardized and peer-reviewed VR scenarios allow for detailed, personalized, and thorough analytics. Creating custom content in VR is undoubtedly appealing and may be useful in certain cases, however it removes the possibility of having rich, scalable feedback across cohorts. Implementing a broad range of standardized scenarios may provide you with the same variations as building your own, without compromising the levels of feedback you can give to learners.

Meeting Demands of Flexible Learning

Studies are increasingly finding that immersing a learner into a virtual world via a Head-Mounted-Display (HMD) has a greater impact on educational outcomes than screen-based learning(6). However, as simulation becomes a part of everyday life and distance-learning options are increasingly in favor, institutions need a way to deliver these simulations when VR hardware is not available.

Meeting the evolving educational needs of hospitals and universities means using a virtual reality platform that can support immersive VR sim in addition to an identical screen-based experience. 

Consideration #3 

As you consider approaching a hybrid VR-immersion/screen-based implementation, evaluate whether or not your learners will also need to use VR for group-based simulations, individual learning sessions, and multiplayer for interprofessional simulation experiences. 

We’re excited to see how our partners – and the wider sim community – will continue to advance the use of virtual reality in simulation in 2020. For more information about how VR simulation can work for you, contact us here.


  1. McIntosh (2006). Simulation: What does it really cost? 
  2. Iglesias-Vázquez (2007). Cost-efficiency assessment of Advanced Life Support (ALS) courses based on the comparison of advanced simulators with conventional manikins. 
  3. Pottle (2019). Virtual Reality Medical Simulation: Economic Evaluation and Return on Investment. Available on request.
  4. Haerling (2018). Cost-Utility Analysis of Virtual and Mannequin-Based Simulation. 
  5. Waxman (2019). SSH March Presidential Message. 
  6. Krokos, Plaisant, and Varshney (2019). Virtual memory palaces: immersion aids recall.


The Importance of Simulation

Types of simulation

This week is Healthcare Simulation week and as part of the celebrations we take a look at five reasons to salute the wonderful practice of simulation…



1. Simulation improves patient care 

By far the most compelling benefit of simulation in healthcare is the positive impact that it can have on patients. After all, a drive to  improve patient outcomes and the quality of their care is at the basis of healthcare education systems worldwide…

Providing future healthcare workers with the resources to optimize patient care – be that through effective clinical acumen, time management, communication and everything else in between – is the bedrock of a successful healthcare system.

Essentially, simulation sets trainee doctors and nurses up to effectively make people better when they come to practice in real life. In 2012, Benjamin Zendejas (Mayo Medical School, Rochester) set out to prove how far simulation training promotes positive results for patients. The findings were powerful; simulation-based education was shown to be directly linked to patient benefits when compared to both non-simulation-based training and instances where no intervention was given at all. 

Linked to this is the propensity for simulation to reduce patient harm. No clinician wants to inadvertently complicate or worsen a patient’s condition but medical error is the third leading cause of death in hospitals worldwide. With simulation, we are able to reproduce patient care sequences with all the clinical complexities of real life scenarios allowing clinicians to cover all the bases when treating real people. 

Ultimately, simulation-based training produces more competent healthcare professionals which can only be beneficial in improving the quality and safety of patient care. 


2. Simulation inspires confidence

Few on-boarding periods of a new job can be as daunting as starting out as a junior doctor or nurse. Fetching coffees, navigating the intricacies of a Kafkaesque office bureaucracy, whilst remembering not to raid Belinda from Accounts’ personal HobNob stash seem like a walk in the park compared to a 12-hour shift filled with hundreds of patients with complaints ranging from the utterly absurd to the genuinely life-threatening. 

To make matters worse, strained resources, overcrowded hospitals and staff shortages mean that most junior healthcare professionals face much of this without the necessary support.   With simulation, clinicians are able to practice managing acutely unwell patients without causing real patient harm if it goes wrong. In this way, practicing emergency care during training can take the edge off the intimidating world of real life practice.

This is something we’ve been made directly aware of at Oxford Medical Simulation through the roll-out of our virtual reality simulation platform at Oxford University. There, learners told us that, “it’s really good to get the experience of being put in the driver’s seat, of making the decisions…I think it will give me more confidence to make those decisions [in real life]”.


What is more, simulation-based training as been shown to improve junior clincian’s confidence in pushing for improved patient outcomes within real life treatment. Healthcare training is inherently hierarchical and this can often mean that trainees are afraid to speak up when they think a senior colleague is not administering the right kind of treatment. 

In a study carried out by the University of Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital, simulation was shown to increase the frequency and quality of interventions by Residents in the care suggested by their seniors. 

Simulation can therefore be seen to not only improve patient care by bolstering the doctor or nurses confidence in their individual practice, but also promoting appropriate assertion in challenging a treatment plan when they think there might be a better way. 


3. Simulation lets us learn from our mistakes 

In our personal and professional lives we learn best from the mistakes we make. Cultivating an attitude that embraces mistakes as an inevitable part of life that can be mined for valuable lessons is an effective way to successfully avoid making mistakes in the future. Within the context of healthcare however – where the price of our mistakes can be fatal – this kind of philosophy can be hard to accept. 

In practicing simulation a safe-space is created in which healthcare professionals can refine their clinical skills without the risk of harming real patients. When effective debrief is built into simulation, the learnings taken from this form of training  are invaluable. With learners identifying strengths and areas for improvement in a supportive atmosphere. This is a powerful combination that mitigates against these mistakes being made in real life. 

Further, the emphasis on debrief engenders good habits of self-reflection for trainees to take through their entire professional careers. When clinicians are used to assessing their own practice regularly they are personally assuring the quality of the care they provide. 


4. Simulation works across all healthcare disciplines 

Simulation works effectively across all healthcare domains including; medicine, nursing, paediatrics, mental health, surgery, emergency care, life-saving and more. What is more, simulation surpasses all other training mechanisms in touching the most comprehensive set of skills ranging from specific procedures to communication and teamwork. 

The controlled nature of simulation means that institutions can ensure learners are exposed to as wide a range of clinical presentations as possible to build up depth of knowledge. Stress conditions can be put in place to mirror real life scenarios and test trainees ability to cope under pressure. The debrief that follows these experiences means that learnings are not lost or left open to individual interpretation. 

Simulation is also deliverable across multiple platforms. Mannequin-based simulation has long been used to produce life-like conditions in which learners can practice patient management. Similarly, the use of standardized patients in simulation is effective in creating a true-to-life environment where learners are able to interact with a real person. Increasingly, virtual reality is being used to deliver repeatable, immersive simulation at scale. 


5. Simulation is widely practiced worldwide

We’ve often heard it said that – if you do not work in healthcare – simulation is probably the biggest industry that you’ve never heard of. When you stop to think about it – it makes sense. You wouldn’t expect pilots to fly planes without practicing in simulators first – so why should we expect the people taking care of our health not to do so as well? 

There are hundreds of organisations, institutions and individuals doing wonderful things in simulation across the world.  Organisations such as SSH and ASPiH organise renowned international events like the International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH) to encourage knowledge sharing and best practice. 

As part of Healthcare Simulation Week, Boston Children’s Hospital hosted a Facebook Live event to give the community insights into how its state-of-the-art paediatric simulation center works. Having run an immeasurably impactful simulation programme for over a decade, BCH has now taken is simulation capabilities on the road. Offering over 50 courses at nine institutions across eastern Massachusetts – its SIM Network initiative shows that simulation best practice can be distributed at scale. 

In the UK, the NHS Diabetes Programme is using simulation to directly impact the treatment of people with Type 1 diabetes. Using the OMS virtual reality simulation platform, doctors are able to practice treatment before they see real life patients. Diabetes treatment can be notoriously tricky and for many doctors the first time they have to manage diabetes-related cases is in real life. Using simulation, the NHS is able to train doctors on the specific complexities to look out for, without compromising the quality of patient care. 

The healthcare team at St Luke’s University, Pennsylvania, have customised a freight truck to serve as a mobile simulation suite. Offering training opportunities across disciplines, people that live in remote areas that once may have been unable to access a healthcare education are now able to access valuable resources to further their careers. In this way, St Luke’s mobile simulation operation is promoting diversity and social mobility in healthcare and beyond.

These are just a few examples of the ways in which simulation is being leveraged to improve healthcare training and education, and in turn, our healthcare systems and standards of patient care. 

Happy Healthcare Simulation Week! 


Oxford University Partners with Oxford Medical Simulation to Transform Medical Education

The world’s leading medical schools are embracing state of the art virtual reality software to push student’s learning to new heights.

Oxford University has partnered with Oxford Medical Simulation to train medical students using virtual reality. Students can now practice medical emergencies using true to life virtual scenarios without risking patients’ lives.

The technology, developed by Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS), allows medical students to practice treating acutely unwell patients in a simulated, virtual environment as often as they like. Training in this way improves patient care in real life by allowing repeated practice in simulation to build competence and confidence.

Why VR?

Oxford University decided to employ this innovative technology as a way to get more students through simulation. Simulation – where trainees practice medical emergencies as they would present in real life – is widely regarded as one of the most effective ways of training healthcare professionals. Simulation is traditionally practiced with high fidelity plastic mannequins in mocked up hospital wards. However, this form of simulation is time, space and budget consuming meaning medical students may only get to experience one physical simulation in an academic year. With virtual reality simulation, students are now able to practice simulated scenarios as often as they like.

The system is being used at the OxSTaR centre based at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford – the main teaching hospital for Oxford University Medical School.

Rosemary Warren, Centre Manager at OxSTaR commented,

“As a world-leading institution, it is important for us to remain at the forefront of changes in the types of learning opportunities we offer our students. Embedding virtual reality simulation into what we do has enabled us to give a far greater number of learners access to simulation in a shorter space of time. It’s encouraging to see how quickly our students have adopted the technology. I’m excited to see how they progress clinically as they use it more and more. Simulation is a vital part of medical education and students just don’t get to do it enough. The OMS virtual reality platform allows learners to enter simulation as often as they like to transfer their knowledge to practice.”

The OMS system works by providing students access to libraries of medical emergencies that allows them to simulate the treatment of a range of conditions such as sepsis, diabetes, cardiac failure, pancreatitis and many more. Students enter the interactive virtual scenario using an Oculus headset and are greeted by a virtual nursing assistant and their patient. Learners are able to question, comfort, examine and treat the patient as they would in real life. Every action the learner takes up to – and including – diagnosis and resolution is recorded and fed into the system’s inbuilt feedback engine. Once the scenario is complete, the learner is taken through this feedback to understand what went well and what they need to improve on.

The emphasis is on training effective decision making, critical thinking and clinical reasoning. Healthcare learners have a safe space where they can apply their knowledge and learn from their mistakes.

Dr Jack Pottle, Founder and Chief Medical Officer at OMS said:

“We’re delighted to be working with world leading institutions like Oxford to bring our platform to medical students. We have developed OMS out of a belief that training healthcare professionals in a flexible, zero-risk environment will transform patient care around the world. We learn best when learning from experience and our system allows users to do just that – without putting patient’s lives at risk.”

OMS are currently providing free trial access to the platfrom to healthcare institutions – use the form below to contact the team. 


Oxford Medical Simulation invited to Number 10 Downing Street

The Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS) team were invited to Number 10 Downing Street in recognition of their work to improve care for people with diabetes.

The NHS England diabetes team are working with Oxford Medical Simulation to train doctors using virtual reality. Using VR headsets, doctors can now practice in simulated medical emergencies, learning from their virtual mistakes to improve care for patients in the real world.

The diabetes scenarios, authored with clinical expertise from the NHS and input from patients, are being used in a multi-centre trial across the South of England. 

The event at Downing Street was organised by the Prime Minister to acknowledge the contribution of organisations and individuals to diabetes care. OMS Founder and Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jack Pottle, said: 

“It was an honour to be acknowledged by the Prime Minister for our work in improving care for people with diabetes. This recognition is a testament to the outstanding work of the world-leading team at OMS and our dedication to improving the quality and increasing the efficiency of healthcare training. We are enabling healthcare professionals to learn from their mistakes without harming patients. Recognition from Number 10 further drives us in our mission to optimise clinical performance, reduce the cost of training and benefit patients globally.”

Margot James, Minister of State for Digital and Creative Industries said:

“Oxford Medical Simulation is a great example of the ground-breaking digital companies that the UK is constantly producing, I was hugely impressed when I met the company and tried their technology earlier this year and it’s great that it will now provide training for doctors across the NHS as they treat patients with diabetes.”

Learn more about the NHS VR diabetes scenarios here.


Oculus Rift S Updates: what do they mean for Virtual Reality simulation? 

Healthcare professional trying out virtual reality medical simulation on the Rift S

For the past few weeks we’ve been avidly testing out the latest Oculus Rift S kit.

The new hardware’s inside-out tracking shows the progression of VR technology and can only mean better, more exciting things for the world of healthcare simulation. 

So, what’s changed? 

The most significant difference between the new Rift S model and its predecessor, the Rift, is that it using inside-out tracking. This means that the sensors now sit inside the headset rather than using a separate desk-mounted sensor as with the original Rift. It has simpler halo-style headband making it easier to put on and the original over ear headphones have been replaced with directional speakers embedded into the headband. 

The screen resolution on the Rift S is slightly higher than previous models and they way the user sets up their guardian fields (ie the area in which you can “play” in VR) has changed. Now operated from entirely within VR, you draw a line to mark out your play area to map it out more precisely. New outward facing cameras on the Rift S headset mean you switch to seeing your real-world surroundings if you move outside of the physical space you’re meant to be in. It’s a clever feature that means you no longer have to worry about bumping into anything or anyone whilst your immersed in the virtual space. 

What do these changes mean for virtual reality simulation? 

In terms of how learners use the OMS simulation platform, the move to the Rift S won’t require you to change anything at all. Whether you’re using a Rift S or and original Rift model, you can still train healthcare professionals using fully immersive VR medical and nursing scenarios as before, and there are some added benefits. 

Firstly, freeing the headset from the external sensors means that the setup is even easier and quicker and the Rift S is smaller, making it even easier to store and transport. Particularly if you are looking for simulation suite that can be used across multiple sites then the Rift S is perfect.

The new guardian set up allows users to take full advantage of the six degrees of freedom (how your movement in the real world matches your movement in the virtual world) in a much simpler format. The guardian system allows you to more easily avoid any fixtures and fittings that might otherwise get in the way and interrupt your immersive experience. Because users can now view their surroundings without coming out of VR – health and safety is assured and the capacity for independent learning of VR simulation is further enhanced. 

In conclusion, in terms of learning outcomes and visual experience, the Rift S offers much the same experience as the original Rift – ie excellent. The improvements made on the Rift S tend to make the practical experience of setting up and implementing simulation simpler with fewer pieces of hardware and the smaller, more transportable kit. All of this means the Rift S continues to allow VR to provide simulation at scale, to deliver all the benefits of OMS VR simulation. 

If you want to try out the OMS VR medical or nursing simulation platform on the Rift S get in touch with one of our Educational Specialists today.


Is Embracing Human Error the Future of Healthcare?

It’s a good job Frank Sinatra wasn’t a clinician…

Crooning “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again… I can never mention them because there’s an inherent denial of error in healthcare,” doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it, does it?

Ol’ Blue Eyes aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about mistakes recently. I’ve been thinking about the mistakes that we make as doctors and nurses and how they have irreversible effects on the lives of our patients. And I’ve been thinking about my own mistakes. How I have missed diagnoses, delayed treatments, discussed plans insufficiently and how this has impacted the lives of the patients who trusted me with their care.

And as well as reflecting on these errors and how they forever change the lives of our patients, I’ve been thinking about how they affect us as clinicians and how best to learn from them. And, paradoxically, how we never speak about them.

Humans make mistakes. Outside hospital we admit these mistakes, own up to them with people we trust and try not to repeat them again. Yet what is taken as normal in everyday life doesn’t work in healthcare.

Why don’t we discuss our mistakes?

Firstly, litigation. There’s an understandable sensitivity around talking about what’s gone wrong as it leaves us open to malpractice cases. Cases like that of Hazida Bawa-Garba – a doctor struck off for missing sepsis – does little to dispel this. There is a feeling that the legal vultures are just waiting to close in after every slip-up.

Then there is shame. There is a deep personal shame in making mistakes. We are taught that only juniors make mistakes and we grow out of them as they become more senior. There is therefore an inherent unwillingness to admit we make mistakes as we become more senior; we should be above this.

And in addition to the personal threat of shame is the societal threat of ridicule. Healthcare is a competitive field where we only show the best side of ourselves to our peers. In opening ourselves up to become ‘the guy who made that mistake’ there is a vulnerability we’re not prepared to accept.

The organisation threat of litigation, the personal threat of shame and the societal threat of ridicule by our peers is a powerful combination. And a combination that coalesces to form a more general fear – if we do admit our mistakes we will be alone.

The fear of ridicule distances us from our peers. We fear the institution we work in will distance itself from us in litigation. And the removal of these two vital supports – colleagues and organisation – leaves us alone and adrift when we are least prepared to deal with it.

Does discussing mistakes matter?

In short, yes. If we don’t discuss our mistakes, it is impossible to learn effectively from them. There is a wealth of evidence that debriefing on mistakes improves future performance. This effect comes not only from learning from our own mistakes, but learning from our colleagues’ errors. In not discussing our mistakes as a group we are depriving our colleagues of the knowledge they could have gleaned from our mistake and the rich vein of potential for broader error reduction has been lost.

This error reduction is not just in relation to other clinicians avoiding specific mistakes. Most errors are not due to a ‘bad clinician’, rather the same or similar medical errors have been made many times before in many different ways by many different clinicians. And errors are rarely due to one clinician happening to make a mistake. They are a combination of a huge number of factors that align to make an error. Therefore in not discussing as a group we are not only depriving our colleagues of knowledge, but we are leaving the system open to ongoing failures by not identifying system-wide faults.

Brian Goldman discusses the culture of mistake denial in medicine in his 2010 TEDX Talk: Doctors Make Mistakes. Can we talk about that? Goldman talks about his own experiences of making mistakes and argues we need to find a way to embrace that in a more constructive way.

Goldman closed his TED Talk with a call to action for the medical community to redefine its attitude to mistakes, to find ways to openly and sympathetically discuss them in order to better learn from them. That was almost ten years ago and I’m not sure we’ve answered his rallying cry yet.

So what can we do?

There is still hope, and it starts in medical and nursing school.

We must teach medical and nursing students that mistakes are inevitable in a high pressure field with exponentially increasing complexity and pressure. Only in doing this from the start, in teaching students to be comfortable with uncertainty and that mistakes are inevitable in an uncertain world, will we begin to change the tide.

Companies such as Oxford Medical Simulation are actively trying to create a safe space in which to consider clinical mistakes that Goldman so rightly encouraged us to cultivate.

OMS builds lifelike but non-judgemental virtual reality scenarios in which students can see and treat patients like in real life. This allows learners to make mistakes in the virtual world rather than in real life, without any sense of reprisal.

Reflection and debrief on performance is built into the system, guiding learners to discuss errors, before providing structured feedback on performance. In this way, learners are in control of building a culture of supportive discussion of error.

While it is key to embed a culture of discussing errors at medical or nursing school, this is not enough. Once clinicians have been taught that making mistakes is normal, that discussing them is vital, and that this can improve patient care, we need to have systems that support reporting of these errors, to disseminate knowledge.

Reporting of mistakes, reporting of near-misses, reporting of anything that might compromise patient care should be the norm. And this should be true from the porters through the clinicians to the CEO.

To do that, we have to extricate the shame loaded into such discussions of error. Though a broad culture change to make error reporting the norm will take time, one simple way to help this is anonymisation. Building simple, anonymised reporting systems into hospital infrastructure – where an error is reported to the patient safety team, a collaborative action plan is formed and reported back to the clinical team without fear of reprisal – is vital. None of this is difficult, and it will surprise many people outside healthcare that this is not the norm in more hospitals, but all will help create a system that helps identify and supports rather than punishes.

Finally, the systems above are worth nothing if not supported by patients. It is imperative that patients and the public support and can contribute to the structure of such systems – what clinicians and hospital managers feel is important can be very different from the patient voice.

Alongside this, patients and the public must begin to accept that in a complex system, doctors will make mistakes. Healthcare is an imperfect science – many of the decisions we make are based on little or no evidence. In a world where new treatments are being invented daily and conflicting evidence is produced at the rate of 1,000 papers per day, clinicians cannot know what the ‘correct’ course of action is in many cases.

Often the ‘correct’ course does not even exist so we make 50:50 calls.

Combine this with a workforce that is understaffed, overworked and burned out and there is no surprise that mistakes are made so frequently. That is not to accept mistakes – it is to accept what we cannot change, identify what we can change, and target this actively.

In summary…

Like the patients we harm, we carry our mistakes with us for the rest of our lives.

Arming our clinicians with the resources to acknowledge, reflect on and learn from their mistakes is crucial to identifying areas for growth and improving patient care.

Dr Jack Pottle is a practicing doctor, member of the Royal College of Physicians and Chief Medical Officer at Oxford Medical Simulation


Six Ways Virtual Reality Will Affect You in Six Years Time

We look at the ways in which virtual reality will impact our daily lives in the future.

At Oxford Medical Simulation we are constantly investigating the impact of virtual reality in healthcare training and simulation. Throughout our discussions with students, clinicians, educators and simulation professionals it’s clear there is a huge appetite for VR to improve clinical training and the delivery of simulation. However, whilst people are enthusiastic about applying VR to specific use cases – such as virtual reality medical simulation – we are yet to see VR truly embedded into everyday life.

However, as VR headsets come down further in price and software becomes even more accessible, this is changing. To that end, we’ve put together a list of six areas that we predict will have been changed by virtual reality by 2025…

1. Training and Education

Healthcare is one of the primary areas benefiting from VR training and education, with immersive technologies being used to simulate surgical procedures and medical emergencies. Learners are able to enter VR and practice managing complex situations with no risk to real lives.
Companies such as 3D systems and Digital Surgery focus on the surgical aspects, while those such as OMS cover the medical and nursing aspects. We recently wrote about the collaborative work of OMS and the NHS England Diabetes Programme – training doctors using VR to reduce errors in treating patients with diabetes.  

VR training has expanded due to increased understanding that experiential learning is the best way to understand and retain information. Given this rising acceptance of experience over traditional study, it’s no surprise that immersive technologies are being used in other fields of education, too.

At the Natural History Museum in London the ‘Hold the World’ portal allows visitors to be guided through historical artefacts by Sir David Attenborough. Similarly, the Anne Frank House VR experience allows users to travel back in time and experience life as it was in the famous Amsterdam attic. Similarly, archaeologist David R. Hixson of Hood College is using virtual reality to bring the ancient Maya City of Chunchucmil to life for modern day visitors, allowing them to experience what daily life was really like in the ancient world.

VR offers a way for us to embed immersive experiences into learning curriculums in myriad ways, and it won’t be long before we see these experiences leave museums and specialist skills labs and enter the mainstream classroom.

Sir David Attenborough with virtual reality education equipment (Natural History Museum)

2. Experiences and Entertainment

The way in which VR may transform conventional forms of entertainment are yet to become clear. Notwithstanding gaming – in which VR has well and truly made its mark (Beat Saber famously sold over 100,000 copies in its first month) – the world’s film and television are only just dipping their toes into the water.

However, we are seeing some forays into VR experiences as content akin to traditional TV and film. The Baobab Studios 2018 offering, Crow: The Legend, was a VR animated film that featured Oprah Winfrey and John Legend that received critical praise. This kind of animated content – with a star-studded cast to pack a punch – is a great way to get consumers accustomed to the idea of virtual reality as an entertainment form beyond gaming. Critics are also embracing VR as a new story-telling device. For example, 2018’s Venice Film Festival had a dedicated segment for VR Works. As the technology continues to improve year on year (Oculus just released a new, sensor-free Rift model as a precursor to the wireless Quest model) it’s only a matter of time before we’re donning our VR headsets to enter the virtual world of our favourite films and TV shows, rather than just watching them on screen.

VR is also being used by contemporary artists to produce new immersive offerings. Anish Kapoor and Jeff Koons have both collaborated with Acute Art – an agency that specialises in producing artworks using virtual reality. There will also be a dedicated VR space at this year’s upcoming Frieze festival in New York. With influential events, artists and organisations backing virtual reality art, it won’t be long until we’re consuming this in the same way as we do traditional paintings, sculptures and more.

3. Patient Care

The impact of vr in healthcare goes beyond training and education, and VR is showing huge potential in areas such as pain management and treatment for specific conditions. Companies such as Virtue are leading the way in applying VR to dementia and Alzheimer’s treatment. Using immersive technology to recreate familiar childhood scenarios and trigger memories – Virtue is taking reminiscence therapy to new heights. In an area that traditional healthcare struggled to tackle (Pfizer ended its research into new Alzheimer’s drugs last year) virtual reality may just be the answer.

Similarly, virtual reality technology has been shown to reduce pain during complicated childbirth scenarios. Trials at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia have shown that using immersive VR experiences during external cephalic version procedures (where breech babies are manually turned) can significantly reduce pain.

At Cedars Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles  significant research and work is going into the impacts of therapeutic VR. It has already been shown to have fantastic results in terms of pain management and recovery. At their Virtual Medicine Conference in March this year, we heard from Former Cedars Sinai patient Harmon Clarke who recalled how meditating and travelling in VR during his hospital stay, instead of relying solely on pain medication, accelerated his recovery from Crohn’s disease.

Skip Rizzo, a psychologist and leading mind in therapeutic VR has conducted award-winning research into the positive effects of  virtual reality-based exposure therapy to treat PTSD and continue to analyse the benefits of virtual reality therapy across a range of psychological domains.

Virtual Reality Patient Care (Evidently Cochrane)

4. Shopping

How we shop has already transformed beyond recognition over the last decade. Virtual reality technology will open up new possibilities for how we engage with consumer products and ultimately, buy them.

The most obvious application of this is within the home improvements market. VR home design tools will allow consumers to place potential furniture or decorative purchases within a virtual mock up of their real home and interact with these items. This goes beyond current screen-based design tools – in VR consumers will be able to interact with items and get a clear sense of how they’ll live with them once purchased. Macy’s Department Stores in the US is already offering this kind of service to their customers.

The retail world has already explored how VR will affect online shopping. In 2016, Alibaba rolled out a VR shopping experience during Single’s Day – reportedly the biggest annual online shopping event in China. Shoppers from China were able to enter American stores virtually – such as Macy’s – and interact with the products in that environment.

Alibaba launches virtual reality shopping on Single’s Day (Upload VR)

As VR shopping experiences become more commonplace the consumer will gain more agency over their consumption. We’ll be able to make informed decisions over the products we buy online, before we buy them.

5. Social Behaviours

VR has recently shown interesting possibilities for changing problematic social behaviours. This ranges from sexual harassment, unconscious bias in the workplace and racial bias.

Vantage Point has developed a virtual reality based environment for sexual harassment training within the workplace. The solution is based on the premise that the simulated environment provides a safe space in which professionals learn how to respond to and report incidents of harassment in a safe, unintimidating environment. By simulating true to life scenarios, sexual harassment training is transformed from something typically seen as a matter of compliance to one of workplace safety that is taken more seriously. Improving how we educate people about sexual harassment will undoubtedly reduce cases of harassment and make for safer workplaces.

Similarly, programmes that use VR to highlight and remove unconscious biases in the workplace are rising in popularity. New York based consultancies BCT Partners and Red Fern Consulting have partnered to launch the Through My Eyes programme which uses immersive scenarios to help employees recognise – and then change – their unconscious perceptions. The programme allows participants to walk in the shoes of victims of social biases in order to confront their own real-life discriminatory behaviours through empathy. In a world that is finally prioritising diversity in the workplace, VR is offering an innovative way to push this forward.

Virtual Reality training in the workplace (VR Focus)

Mel Slater has run a series of studies at the University of Barcelona that have shown that inherent racial bias is decreased within virtual environments. In one, participants were given implicit association tests before entering a virtual scenario in which they were immersed in a virtual body of a different race. They were given the same test after being inside the VR and participants that were put in a dark virtual body showed a marked decrease in their inherent biases. The impact of these findings could be to trigger a reduction in unconscious prejudices – leading to increased empathy towards others in the real world.

6. Social interaction

Virtual Reality technology also has the potential to transform the way we work, communicate with each other and even socialise. Using virtual reality as a new form of meeting software allows remote workers to enter virtual meeting rooms with colleagues. This will certainly enhance collaborative working by connecting regional offices and distributed workforces. Efficiency will also be boosted with the time and financial costs of commuting greatly reduced.

Similarly, virtual reality has the potential to take communication with our friends and family to the next level. Just as experiences like Skype and Facetime have revolutionised how we interact with distanced loved ones, it’s not hard to imagine keeping in touch with our friends and family within immersive settings. Because VR allows users to feel present together – no matter where they happen to be physically – these interactions will be taken to whole new levels. Couples in long-distance relationships will be able to enjoy fully interactive, involved, dates using the technology. Since shared experiences bind us to those we care about – virtual reality experiences have the potential to keep us connected to our friends and families in entirely new and powerful ways.

To that end, Facebook has dedicated an entire business unit to building immersive experiences for social life. Social VR is dedicated to creating “technologies that help people to create, share meaningful moments, and build communities using the unique qualities of this immersive new medium”. As the precarious world of established social media continues to shift – Facebook has reportedly lost 15 million users in the US since 2017 – it’s no wonder they are looking to virtual reality as the next platform for social interaction.

Virtual reality meeting (via Virtual Speech)

So there we have it, the six ways in which virtual reality will affect our lives in six years time. At OMS we look forward to continuing to do our bit in applying this technology to improve healthcare training to improve patient care worldwide.


The Joy of VR: what we learned when the leading virtual reality healthcare minds gathered in Los Angeles

We attended the Virtual Medicine conference at Cedars Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles where we joined leaders in the virtual reality healthcare space to discuss the latest developments – and applications – of VR in patient care and medical education.

Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS) was proud to join other leading thinkers excited about the potential of virtual reality in healthcare. The Virtual Medicine conference (vMed) brought together not only healthcare professionals, but also researchers, technical developers, business leaders and patients. This made showcasing our virtual reality scenarios for healthcare training during the event all the more special.

As always, we loved getting VR newbies into the system to demo how intuitive VR can be, and it was even more encouraging to get the endorsement of VR experts who live and breath virtual reality in healthcare.

We were excited that when healthcare professionals entered our scenarios for a quick taste they quickly became so immersed that they were determined to save the patient, or delve into the details to find out more. Surprised at the level of realism in one of our virtual patient’s histories, one user at vMed19 announced;

“Whoa! I’m going to ask about his social history! I want to know what kind of recreational drugs he uses.”

Only in Los Angeles!

Besides the kind words about our own platform, we received a fascinating update into the other ways in which VR is impacting healthcare for the better. From helping to manage pain associated with Crohn’s Disease, to facilitating reminiscence therapy in people with dementia, the applications of therapeutic VR just keep growing. Dr David Rhew (Chief Medical Officer at Samsung Electronics America) gave a compelling talk on the effects of VR on people with dementia, loneliness and concussion amongst a host of other applications. In the case of concussions, VR is now proving to be as effective as sleep, exercise and education. Former Cedars Sinai patient Harmon Clarke recalled how meditating and travelling in VR during his hospital stay, instead of relying solely on pain medication, accelerated his recovery from Crohn’s disease.

The Patient Panel on Day 2 was another highlight: the moving accounts of four patients who had experienced therapeutic VR really brought home the positive results that this technology can have.

Research on the efficacy and optimal methods of delivering VR therapy remains in its infancy and is a fascinating topic. The groundbreaking work done by Skip Rizzo on the applications of VR to treat PTSD and anxiety in particular and Mel Slater on VR in cognitive neuroscience and body-swapping keep us pushing the boundaries of what VR can do and how it can deeply affect individuals perceptions and abilities to learn.

Despite the excitement of the forefront on the technology, the ongoing message of matching appropriate immersive content and delivery to the individual’s needs remains central to all VR design. At OMS we couldn’t agree more. We often ask ourselves and others considering virtual reality “what are your learning objectives?” and ensure that everything we design meets a specific need.

Cedars Sinai Medical Centre proved to be a compelling setting for the event, too. Set against the backdrop of one of the largest academic health centres in the US, the discussions, revelations and real life stories felt even more relevant. It almost felt like we – as a global VR in healthcare community – were more galvanised, united and inspired by physically locating us within the system we’re seeking to change.

It was this collective feeling of inspiration and celebration that made vMed19 such an impactful conference. The world’s leading thinkers and innovators in VR medicine came together in one place to share new developments and celebrate success stories, and we left with a boosted motivation to continue our work in the space. Brennan Spiegel, Director of Health Research at Cedars Sinai and the driving force behind the vMed conference summed up this feeling best when he offered some uplifting advice in his closing remarks:

“VR offers joy. Leverage that like crazy.”

We couldn’t agree more!


Oxford University uses virtual reality to power blended learning and boost medical student education

Students at Oxford University use virtual reality simulation to augment medical student education.

Blended learning combines traditional learning techniques with interactive, digital resources to optimise student engagement. This practice can be particularly effective within the context of medical education – where students are required to absorb vast amounts of complex practical and conceptual knowledge. With this in mind, Oxford Medical Simulation’s platform has been designed to complement in-classroom teaching methods with cutting edge virtual reality simulation to take medical students’ learning to the next level.

Medical students at Oxford University have been using our simulation software at the OxSTaR centre to effectively combine learning techniques. Blending the use of our platform with conventional lectures, learners have followed in-classroom study by cementing their practical and clinical skills in VR. Users at Oxford told us that:

“As a learning experience, pairing the VR with a lecture beforehand worked well – the VR was an opportunity to consolidate and put the learning into practice.”

Differentiated learning is not a radically new concept in medical training and education – students have traditionally supported their theoretical studies with physical, mannequin-based simulation. However, it’s not uncommon for medical students to get access to a physical simulation session as little as once in an academic year. What is exciting about how Oxford University is using our virtual reality simulation platform is the immediate nature of learning theory in the lecture hall and then instantly – and seamlessly – applying that learning within a simulated scenario.

The upshot of embedding virtual reality simulation into medical training is improved learner confidence and transfer of learning to practice. Because the simulation software is readily accessible, students can repeat scenarios as many times as they need to build confidence. This is crucial to priming learners to enter the hospital environment. The medical students at Oxford University recognise how VR simulation will help them prepare for real-life situations:

“It’s really good to get the experience of being put in the driver’s seat, making the decisions and then following through with the management. As a medical student, there is a lot of standing around watching people do things. You tell yourself that you would make those decisions, but it’s nice to actually practice making the decisions. I think it will give me more confidence to make those decisions in real life.”

It’s encouraging to see students responding to virtual reality simulation with virtual patients in such a positive way. Providing readily available, scalable and accessible learning content that transforms learning and, ultimately, real-life practice, is built into the design of our platform. Oxford Medical Simulation will be keeping up the good work with Oxford University and leading institutions to bring this experience to learners around the world.



NHS doctors train using virtual reality to improve care for people with diabetes

The NHS England diabetes team has partnered with Oxford Medical Simulation to train doctors using virtual reality. Doctors can now practice in virtual reality medical emergencies, to improve care for patients with diabetes in the real world. Combining clinical expertise from the NHS, volunteer patient input and world leading virtual reality software, doctors can now put on virtual reality headsets and practice taking care of patients as often as they want, without risking lives. The system is being piloted through Health Education England in a multicentre trial in the South of England, with development funded by Novo Nordisk. If supported by evidence from the pilot there are plans for further roll-outs nationwide throughout 2019.

People with Type 1 diabetes have more chance of developing life-threatening complications when in hospital than outside it. For people with diabetes, extreme highs and lows in blood sugar can be fatal. These emergencies can be difficult for doctors and nurses to recognise but can be fatal if not treated quickly. High quality training for frontline staff is vital to improve patient care in these situations. “When I was in training we’d learn on the wards. It was called ‘see one, do one, teach one’, commented Dr Jack Pottle, an NHS clinical entrepreneur and co-founder of Oxford Medical Simulation, a virtual reality medical training company based in London. “I had never practiced managing a diabetic emergency until I had to do it in real life. You wouldn’t expect a pilot to fly a plane full of passengers without having practiced first. Why do we think that’s acceptable for doctors and nurses?”

Dr Partha Kar, NHS England Clinical Director of Diabetes said: “Embracing technology is at the heart of the NHS Long Term Plan and training doctors using virtual reality is another example of modernising the NHS to help improve care for patients with diabetes.” Individuals who helped to develop this project included Dr Mayank Patel, Dr Ritwika Mallik and Mr Neil Sweeney.

Margot James, Minister of State for Digital and Creative Industries said: “Oxford Medical Simulation is a great example of the ground-breaking digital companies that the UK is constantly producing, I was hugely impressed when I met the company and tried their technology earlier this year and it’s great that it will now provide training for doctors across the NHS as they treat patients with diabetes.”

For more information please contact: Dr Jack Pottle, Oxford Medical Simulation Tel UK: 07515 281397 Phone international: +44 7515 281397 Email: [email protected]

Oxford Medical Simulation delivers virtual reality medical training. Using Oculus Rift VR headsets, learners can practice in immersive, fully-interactive clinical scenarios as if in real life. They then receive personalised feedback and can repeat as often as they like to improve performance. These scenarios deliver consistently excellent, standardised clinical training for students, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. The focus is on clinical decision-making under pressure, crisis resource management, team interaction and patient engagement. Oxford Medical Simulation allows healthcare professionals to learn through practice, without risking patient lives, to improve patient care.