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Tag Archives: VR

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
An immersive, experiential simulation scenario in VR

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.


Summary

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.

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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.

References

  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.

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