As COVID19 overwhelms health care systems all over the world Virtual Reality has become a vital tool in the training of urgently needed medical staff.
-VR is fantastic for getting people through training efficiently and effectively, says Dr. Jack Pottle.
Dr. Pottle is the founder and chief medical officer for Oxford Medical Simulation, a Boston and London-based company that creates health carel training programs for VR. The company is now making their VR and online training platform available for free to hospitals and medical schools all over the world.
– Normally we license our software to universities, hospitals and health systems but ultimately we’re an impact-focused company. This is about improving staff performance in challenging situations to improve patient care, so with the pressures put on by COVID-19 we though “We need to get this to people as soon as possible” – because training has never been more important, and you have doctors and nurses being thrown into clinical situations that they may not be prepared for.
COVID-19 is severely stretching healthcare systems’ capabilities, and new staff are required to manage not only COVID, but all those everyday cases that come through the hospital doors – like heart attacks, strokes and infections.
– The doctors and nurses who normally care for these patients are now doing specialist tasks in the wards, and many of these new recruits are doctors and nurses moved from other specialties who won’t know emergency medical care, or medical students without much experience, Dr. Pottle explains.
Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS) provides hundreds of different scenarios that are all immersive, interactive and adaptive to the users actions.
– In a medical scenario, for example, you are playing the role of a doctor. You can talk to the patient and ask questions – and they respond as in real life. You can examine them – listen to heart and lung sounds for example, you can do investigations, interpret results, make diagnoses and carry out treatment. You can document findings, speak to people on the phone and speak with your nurse to make sure the teamwork is effective. You can do everything that you would normally be able to do.
A new paradigm for medical VR training
Dr. Pottle started his career in the field of education psychology. Something that would later lead to the creation of Oxford Medical Simulation.
– I was seeing this disconnect between how we were taught, which was to pass exams, and what you needed to know in the wards, which was to save peoples lives.
He then became involved in physical simulations, training doctors with the help of actors and mannequins.
– It works very well. But it’s not very realistic or accessible and you can’t provide it to people at scale.
VR solves those issues. And the response from the users is overwhelmingly positive, says Dr. Pottle.
– They absolutely love it. And it’s not because of the Wow factor. They love it because it replicates something they can never do in the real world. As a student or a junior doctor you can never go in, treat a patient, make mistakes, and for it to be fine. The OMS platform is a system that lets them do that safely but also without having their peers watching. And that is very powerful.