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How Effective is Medical Simulation Training Using AR and VR

You may not be aware of it, but augmented and virtual reality is used in a variety of everyday ways. Augmented reality, or AR, is an interactive enhanced experience utilizing a real world setting. Virtual reality, or VR, is an immersive interactive experience in a computer-simulated environment. Many applications allow you to use your phone as an interactive medium with the real world as a backdrop. Snapchat, a popular social media app for sharing pictures and videos, applies AR technology as part of the user experience. You can place 3D dancing hot dog graphics on your friends or even a dog filter over your face. Knowing the fun and casual usages of augmented and virtual reality technology provokes a conversation about its’ usages in a professional setting.

Healthcare simulation is the usage of simulation technology for training purposes in the medical field. The healthcare industry has been using many different types of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) equipment, such as the Oculus Rift. An example of medical simulation is the simulation of an operating room to allow the user to practice doing open heart surgery with the usage of Oculus Rift along with a handheld controller. Another example would be utilizing the HTC Vive along with custom software to allow a student in medical school to understand the spatial aspect of anatomy, such as seeing veins on a heart.

Photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash

Training for mental health professions is even possible, such as simulating talking to a child about substance abuse. Healthcare simulation, specifically AR and VR, is excellent for training a variety of different learning styles. According to an article by Tech Trends, this training uses mental repetition combined with muscle memory practice to provide skill-based expertise training. It utilizes learning science, which is the marriage of brain science along with psychology, to provide different learning styles with the same experience for a specific medical situation while allowing the user to react and adapt.

You can read more about AR and VR in our previous article here.

AR and VR healthcare simulation education has been incredibly useful in the medical community. It has been beneficial considering how difficult it is to train for live medical situations, such as brain surgery. AR and VR training technology allows health professionals to train in a variety of fields prior to working with real people, thus giving them more experience and preparation. In a study to validate a Haptic VR education platform with the British Orthopaedic Training Association, 92.5% of participants agreed that, “the simulator would be a useful tool for rehearsal prior to an operation.” 90% agreed that “the simulator represents a useful training and assessment tool”. This study shows a strong amount of participants who found the Haptic VR education platform to be useful for training purpose. This opinion can be seen on a wider scale for simulation training in the medical community.

In Medical Training magazine’s article, Virtual Reality Comes of Age, a second-year medical student at the University of Illinois College of Medicine attested to the benefits of virtual reality training “This is amazing for understanding the spatial relationship between the different structures. I can literally go into the anatomy to see how it all fits together.” AR and VR can be applied to educational training in many different fields. Including but not limited to surgery, urology, pediatrics, and emergency medicine. The applications are endless.

With that being said, there are some gaps to AR and VR training in healthcare simulation. Many people find that AR and VR training is very useful and helpful in preparing for a real-life situation. However, they felt some details of a live situation was absent during the simulated training. Such as not being able to recreate the chaos and noise of an emergency room or not being able to recreate the anxiety and pressure felt during a live situation.

In a study to analyze a code blue Simulation Program (CBSP), 15 out the 17 participants felt they were not prepared as code blue leaders in an emergency and were not ready to start their rotations (Blisset, Morrison, Remtulla, Sachedina, and Sridhar). The other two participants felt they were ready, but had experience as a code blue leader due to prior experience. Overall, participants found the experience to be helpful as a training tool but noted some gaps. They found that real codes have more chaos, anxiety, and higher stakes than a simulated code. Participants felt that a simulation was too controlled and didn’t replicate the noise level, amount of people, or chaos in an emergency. In the same CBSP study, a participant stated, “When you are seeing it and it’s a real patient, this is someone’s actual life and if you screw up, it’s a really big deal whereas in a sim, if you screw up, you’ll learn from it” emphasizing that the stakes and anxiety in a simulation and live situation was very different (Blisset, Morrison, Remtulla, Sachedina, and Sridhar). Some details have not been accounted for in AR and VR medical simulation training.
Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash

As technology develops, AR and VR becomes more and more immersive. Today, the anxiety and high stakes of a live situation may not be simulated in training.Yet, tomorrow, it could be. With the development of items such as the HaptX Gloves, AR and VR technology is taking the sense of touch and other finer details into consideration for medical simulation. The HaptX Glove mimics the sensations of resistance to touch and medical tools. In a Forbes’ article, the USC Standard Patient Studio simulated the different types of patients that will visit you and allow you to talk to them in a virtual doctor’s office. Not to mention there is the development of XR, which is mixed reality combining both AR and VR technology. Companies such as Kratos have demonstrated the use of mixed reality solutions as part of their military simulations. These solutions incorporate a wide variety of advanced technologies for sight, sound, smell, haptics and more to increase the immersiveness that users feel in the simulation. One day the gaps in AR and VR training could be closed and become more even more realistic and accurate. The future of AR and VR in medical simulation is very promising.

It’s exciting to think about the future of AR and VR in medical simulation, where do you think AR and VR technology is headed? Let us know your thoughts.

Sources Cited:

Sachedina, Ayaaz K., et al. “Preparing the Next Generation of Code Blue Leaders Through Simulation: What's Missing.” Simulation in Healthcare: The Journal of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare, vol. 14, no. 2, Apr. 2019, pp. 77–81., doi:10.1097/sih.0000000000000343.

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