Virtual Reality is the Future for medical training and simulation
Innovation in technology is happening in every industry. Using virtual and augmented reality technology in medical education is becoming a big trend and part of a fast growing market.
Exonicus is one of the few companies which sees a huge opportunity in the medical training innovation. Trauma simulation in virtual reality is designed to train medical students and residents in emergency medical situations.
Currently, specifically designed manikins are used for this type of training in a prepared emergency room that has all the necessary tools and equipment typically found in a hospital.
Creating these training spaces in the US alone costs millions of dollars a year. In addition, there may only be a certain number of trainees in the room and the instructor must be qualified to provide such training which is a big limitation.
In order to qualitatively carry out emergency procedures, the trainee must not only learn how to perform different types of procedures, but also perform them quickly and in the correct order.
Stress is one of the main reasons for decision-making errors and why emergency procedures, such as the insertion of a central venous catheter, are done poorly or even mistakenly, which increases the risk of patient death.
Virtual reality simulators have the potential to complement the existing learning process. Like pilots learning to fly aircraft, medical students will be able to learn the skills of emergency medical assistance.
The environment created by virtual reality is safe and accessible to everyone. The prices of both virtual reality glasses and computers are falling rapidly, while their performance is increasing exponentially. VR technology entered the market in 2015 with 2.2 million units sold and reached 6.3 million in 2016. Samsung Gear VR dominates, and other market players like Oculus Rift, Google Daydream, HTC Vive, PlayStation, hold only 10% of the total VR sales. The 2018 analyst forecast shows a steady increase in VR device shipment, and it is estimated to be 20 million units. Hopefully, Microsoft Mixed Reality glasses will experience a big growth this and the coming years.
There are two types of VR devices currently available in the market: smartphone VR and standalone VR. The smartphone VR is different from the standalone VR, with the smartphone VR able to be used by anyone with a smartphone. In the case of standalone VR, both a glasses kit and a sufficiently powerful computer are required.
VR technology is becoming more compact and self-sufficient. For example, no additional sensor for location recognition is needed in the room as it is integrated into the device itself like in Microsoft Mixed Reality. To use a standalone VR, a powerful computer is required and the device must be connected to this computer with a wired connection, making it difficult to use. But the next generation of VR will no longer need a computer and there will be no interfering wires. Eye tracking technology will allow for creating new solutions and get a more qualitative experience by focusing the image quality in the direction of the user's eyes. This will greatly reduce the need for computer performance, since maximum quality will be ensured only where it is focused, like the human eye, according to Varjo who are revolutionising VR technology.
Virtual reality is indeed experiencing rapid growth and this technology is improving on a daily basis. Along with this growth, it offers broad opportunities for software development companies.
Psychologically, the experience of virtual reality is similar to experience in physical reality, which is good news, as it means that what we learn in virtual reality, will also be learned in real life.
Comparing emergency medical training in physical reality and virtual, there are clear benefits to virtual reality. First of all, 1) it is possible to simulate countless different situations and scenarios, including those that rarely occur in real life, so the skills acquired in virtual reality will be much wider, 2) adding elements of gaming and competition, training will be more exciting and interesting, which in turn will result in more hours spent learning and improving skills, 3) the use of virtual reality is more affordable and more accessible in places where emergency medical care rooms cannot be afforded.
By collaborating with developers of human physiology engines, it will be possible to simulate not only the injuries themselves, but also their effects on the body’s physiological processes by simulating heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, etc. Adding language recognition modules will allow virtual contact with patients and nurses, thereby developing communication skills. A more lifelike user experience and quality will make this simulator realistic. The interface and algorithm that will enable an instructor to create their own trauma scenarios, thus personalising and individualising training for a particular target audience of learners, will make the software scalable.
In the future, simulation programs will become standard in medical training. To pass the exam, you will not only have to take practical classes and complete the theoretical test, but also spend a certain number of hours in the simulator. Another advantage of virtual reality training is that the instructor and the trainer can connect to one virtual space from different places in the city or even nationwide, and the instructor can provide useful tips for the learner.
With the advent of 5G wireless internet, speed and quality of the Internet will grow quickly. This will happen by the end of this year, and next year, the adaptation by leading telecommunications companies will continue. This is good news for the development of virtual reality, since telemedicine and tele study, essentially a remote-based technology, will allow people to work from home, which in turn will solve other accessibility problems.
This is the right time to kick the next generation of virtual reality simulator development into high gear, and make it the educational standard worldwide.