Revolutionizing medical training with immersive technologies
Immersive technology can help medical personnel prepare and train for the most challenging real-life scenarios. With the advent of high-fidelity virtual, augmented, and mixed reality, advanced organizations are already experimenting with these technologies to gain a competitive advantage and establish an understanding of the potential of the technology for various applications.
Due to rapid technological advancements in the past decade, immersive technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (XR) can now be used to complement traditional learning methods, allowing medical personnel to be immersed in virtual training simulations by using head-mounted displays. With the help of advanced immersive technologies, medical personnel can collaborate and train for even complex open surgeries in virtual environments, with the tiniest parts of the human anatomy coming into human-eye resolution focus.
Key benefits of VR and XR in healthcare and medical training
- Better and safer training outcomes, reducing preventable complications and the resulting human and monetary costs
- Portability and flexibility – removing the limitations of time and place
- Endless variants and repetitions of the particular simulation scenario can be done without additional cost or material
- Reduced cognitive load and improved procedural understanding before real-life operations
- Integrated eye tracking can be used to measure cognitive behaviour to gain insight into trainee performance or diagnose certain conditions
Different use cases for virtual medical training
Let’s examine some of the most promising use cases for VR and XR in medical training in more detail, as well as highlight example organizations already pioneering the use of immersive technologies in the industry.
Advanced virtual and mixed reality allows medical personnel and healthcare students to dive deeper into medical data and human anatomy, as the human body can be explored in all three dimensions in an immersive environment where students can trust the precision, depth, and fidelity down to the smallest nerve.
Utilizing these technologies as complementary to traditional learning methods can increase student engagement and result in faster and more efficient learning outcomes. Most importantly, VR and XR allow for unlimited repetitions with anatomical specimens, which is impossible with traditional cadaver dissection.
Toltech has developed a comprehensive learning tool called the VH Dissector, which enables medical students to interact with 3D views of over 2,000 anatomical structures, allowing them to explore the human body in all three dimensions as it appears in real life.
Enhancing critical event simulation
Practicing in a fail-safe, simulated environment is a critical step in developing readiness for future medical professionals. However, the use of physical props or computer-based training to simulate the stress and chaotic nature of a real-world critical event can sometimes fall flat in delivering a realistic experience for students.
Enhancing these simulations with virtual and mixed reality technologies creates the opportunity for students to experience a more true-to-life simulation, with audio, enhanced visual effects, and even smells working together to create a believable, highly-immersive simulation, all while in the safety of the training environment.
Loma Linda University Health’s ARISE project was developed as a way to better educate, prepare and evaluate medical student readiness. Learn more about this incredible project in our on-demand webinar with them.
Healthcare workforce continued training
In addition to students, current medical professionals can also benefit from immersive training. With cloud-based immersive tools, joint training scenarios with colleagues in remote setups can be organized. Trainees can practice virtually any medical scenario, sharing their knowledge while collaborating in an immersive environment.
Furthermore, physical objects such as manikins, monitors, and medical devices can easily be incorporated into a mixed reality simulation and combined with digital equivalents as required. This allows experienced medical professionals to use their hands and instruments naturally, offering a fail-safe learning environment to train in.
Healthcare solutions provider Laerdal Medical created a hands-on Mixed Reality training simulation which allows teams to work together across locations in a safe learning environment, preparing them for unexpected events without jeopardizing patient safety. Learn more about this in our case study.
Immersive technologies can be used to explore complex biological structures and demanding points to “dive” into patient bodies in 3D. The aim of incorporating immersive technologies to medical imaging is to accomplish more effective procedures and collaboration in a high-fidelity 3D environment.
For medical professionals, being able to analyze complex structures without the need for a mouse or other hand-held controllers is a key advantage. VR and XR can offer improvements and insights that cannot be gained through two-dimensional imaging tools. When properly implemented, advanced medical imaging visualization in photorealistic detail can result in enhanced radiology workflows.
Luxsonic Technologies Inc. has created a solution that provides physicians with collaborative tools for medical education, advanced medical imaging visualization in photorealistic detail, and enhanced radiology workflows, empowering them with the freedom to work from anywhere.
It is now becoming possible to train for more intricate and delicate surgeries in a realistic 3D immersive environment. In surgical simulation, the key benefit of VR and XR is that training exercises can be repeated infinitely without additional cost or material. In addition, VR allows trainees to completely immerse themselves in the training scenario, isolating themselves from the distractions of the surrounding reality.
In mixed reality surgical training, simulations can be performed in various locations and real-life contexts, utilizing displays, medical instruments, and other elements with superior visual accuracy and seamless blending with virtual contents. As VR/XR simulator setups are portable, training exercises can also be conducted outside of the residencies, labs or medical facilities.
Finnish medical company Osgenic has developed an immersive tool to train for open surgeries in a completely realistic VR environment. Osgenic’s current application allows surgeons to highlight very small, intricate parts of the anatomy of the hand.
There have been positive early results in the therapeutic treatment of certain psychological disorders with the help of virtual reality. Immersive technologies have been used increasingly to aid treatment with phobias, anxiety, PTSD and recoveries from physical traumas. In immersive therapy, the patient can experience different levels of immersion, interaction and presence within the digital world during treatment.
At Georgia Institute of Technology’s Sensorimotor Integration Lab, stroke recoveries are already being treated with a combination of robotics and VR headsets. This treatment has been seen to speed up the recovery process and assistance of rehabilitation exercises. Both practitioners and patients utilize VR headsets, whilst the patient receives guidance in real-time through activities designed to recover lost movement. As part of the recovery treatment, the patient wears a robotic exoskeleton on their paretic limb that allows clinicians to digitize their patients’ movements and muscle actions.
According to Dr. Nick Housley from Sensorimotor Integration Lab, using VR has resulted in more accelerated patient outcomes. These outcomes include improvements in range of motion, pain reduction and greater adherence to treatment plans (Brodsky, 2022).
What’s coming next: developing VR/XR for research and diagnosis
In addition to these currently-available technologies, there is incredible work going on to develop VR- and XR-based solutions to enable non-invasive research and diagnosis.
OpenBCI’s Galea device is a hardware and software platform that merges next-generation brain-computer interface technology with head-mounted displays. It is the world’s first device to simultaneously measure a user’s heart, skin, muscles, eyes, and brain. Learn more in this webinar, where the Founder/CEO and lead Software Engineer join Varjo to share how brain-computer interface (BCI) technology paired with VR or mixed reality is revolutionizing real-life applications in research, simulation and even gaming.
machineMD’s Neos is an innovative diagnostic device being developed for the early diagnosis of brain disorders. Neuro-ophthalmic examinations today are mostly performed manually and physicians need years of specialist training. Examinations are time-consuming and results are largely qualitative, leading to frequent incorrect or late diagnoses. Neos is being developed to enable a more complete, standardized, and instrument-based diagnostic process using virtual reality and eye tracking. Learn more about this rapidly advancing development here.