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Will virtual reality become an essential tool for medical education?

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The technology behind virtual reality is advancing rapidly, allowing developers to create entire hospitals in 3D for training purposes. In this article, we look at how Ben Hargreaves uses his VR headset to better educate both healthcare workers and the general public.

Digital healthcare solutions are being talked about more and more often. The pandemic has forced more people than ever to rely on digital health care to accomplish basic activities like talking to a doctor or booking a visit with a medical professional. So it’s pretty easy for most people to imagine what most digital health solutions look like and how they fit into our daily lives to ensure good health.

But virtual reality (VR), one element of the broader digital health ecosystem, makes the act of deploying technology and its use within healthcare more complex. How can the ability to layer virtual reality into everyday life lead to benefits for individual health and healthcare systems? One of the key benefits of VR is its educational capabilities.

The potential of VR technology as an educational tool centers around its ability to create virtual worlds that can closely mimic real-world settings. By simply using a headset, users can be placed in learning environments where they can safely perform tasks without risk or provide a more engaging learning environment. Specific examples include healthcare workers using VR to learn different medical procedures, or using technology to inform the wider public about public health issues such as the importance of vaccination. can be mentioned.

training challenges

According to the World Health Organization, by 2030, the world will need more than 40 million new doctors, nurses, frontline health workers, and a variety of other health professionals. This is roughly double the current healthcare workforce. A major challenge facing preparing the required individuals for work is efficiently training the required number of staff with current training models. A survey found that a healthcare CEO perceives the availability of skilled staff as one of his top five key risks.

The potential of VR to complement existing training models may offer advantages in addressing the problem of retaining and growing an adequate workforce. Although the technology is in its relatively early stages, a number of studies have explored the potential of VR training to improve medical staff performance and confidence in the real world.


In a large study, an early scoping review of many research articles conducted on the use of VR technology in healthcare found that 87% of studies involving people trained through VR were more effective in medical practice. It was found to show high accuracy. To explore a more concrete example, one particular study investigated the use of VR for training tracheostomy care skills compared to regular text-based modules. Results showed that those trained in VR self-reported higher levels of self-efficacy, including friendliness and confidence, while also having reduced anxiety about tracheostomy-related knowledge and care skills. rice field. When it came to testing written and hands-on tracheostomy care skills, there was a ‘significant trend’ of improvement among those who used the VR simulation.

The positive feedback generated by VR in training has also led to the creation of a ‘virtual hospital’ by Cardiff University. The purpose of this project is to create a virtual clinical practice where student healthcare professionals can apply textbook knowledge to real patients and scenarios. One of the key benefits noted in this project was the ability to continue training even at the height of COVID-19 restrictions. Other benefits of the training platform include the ability to measure student performance and provide an immersive learning experience in her 360-degree 3D learning environment.

In the long term, the organization behind the project will improve the education of healthcare professionals, as well as patient care and experience, reduce the carbon footprint of education through virtual environments, and improve the overall education package. I think. Distinguish those involved in the forefront of medical education.

VR for real-world education

Despite the obvious potential for training medical staff in safe and secure environments, the extent of educating the general public on health care issues is also an area with wide-ranging advantages. It may represent information specific to a particular patient, such as providing additional information about treatment, or it may involve broader efforts to educate the public on specific issues.

The latter prospect has become even more urgent as health literacy has become a key issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. A person’s low health literacy on a particular topic makes them susceptible to misinformation. In the case of a pandemic, this has resulted in some people reluctance to vaccinate, even when potentially at risk. Encouraged individual participation and a better understanding of community immunity (also known as herd immunity). The results showed that after the VR ‘treatment’, the intention to be vaccinated increased and was more effective than the text-and-image comparative treatment. Combining both ‘remedies’ further increased vaccination intentions.

the more you know

In addition to encouraging vaccinations and thereby potentially protecting people from disease, there is interest in using VR to help people who have already been diagnosed with a medical condition. Effective education enables patients to better understand their diagnosis and share decision-making with their healthcare professionals. As a result, one study found that patients “become more enthusiastic about initiating treatment and adhering to systemic therapy.”

This hasn’t escaped the attention of pharmaceutical companies looking to educate patients on topics that may have little health literacy. developed. Rather than broadly apply this to all patients, the company targeted her teens and young adults with more engaging content. In this example, education takes the form of an escape room-style game.

This is a big advantage of VR technology. The ability to create such learning tools in virtual reality when doing the same work in the real world would be very difficult and expensive. Due to the creative nature of the tool, VR’s possibilities are inherently limited only to the imagination of applications in the medical world. As VR tools expand into approved medicine, our understanding of the technology only grows. The next step in making it more widely available is deciding how to scale it to give access to the various use cases the technology has.