For most people, the most satisfying thing in virtual reality at the moment might be watching someone unfamiliar with the technology play one of the two dozen or so horror video games currently available. Someone not used to virtual reality is going to react strongly to being scared on purpose, even more so then those who go through haunted houses at carnivals. There is no doubt that this can be amusing to watch, but the scope of virtual reality use is so much bigger than that and most casual users have no idea just how much as possible and will be possible in the coming future.
One of the ways in which virtual reality is starting to be used quite consistently is through healthcare training. Patient satisfaction scores are part of any hospital administration, and anything that a healthcare organization can do to improve those scores should be carefully considered. But does virtual reality training for healthcare actually work? Can surgery training or other medical practice through VR be considered effective? That’s exactly what we are going to explore below.
One of the big ways in which virtual reality is being used in healthcare is through surgical training. Right now, one of the things that statistics show is that there are not enough surgeons being trained for today’s workforce. In fact, according to experts, the surgical workforce would have to double what is right now in order to meet the needs of the population by the year 2030. Unfortunately, one of the things standing in the way of training surgeons is that there is not enough teaching staff or opportunities to perform surgeries under supervision in order to learn the profession.
But that’s exactly where virtual reality comes in. Companies such as Virtual Medics and Medical Realities are at the forefront of this exciting new method for training surgeons. For example, in 2014, the company made headlines when they streamed a surgical training session to more than fourteen thousand surgeons from all around the world using Google Glass. This went even further two years later when a cancer surgery was filmed in 360° video and then live streamed through virtual reality. In this virtual surgery, surgeons and those training to be surgeons watched as the founder of Virtual Medics and Medical Realities, Shafi Ahmed, removed a cancerous tumor from the patient’s colon.
The problem with current medical education programs is that in order for someone to be fully trained in how to perform an operation, the instructor must spend a great deal of time making sure that each student under their tutelage understands every aspect of the procedure. In many cases, there is no hands-on approach. What students learn is purely theory and the first time that they encounter an actual procedure like this may be after they have left medical school altogether. That’s why medical school graduates spend so much time under the supervision of more experienced doctors.
But with virtual reality programs, students can feel as if they are performing the surgery because they are able to watch the surgery in 3D from the surgeon’s perspective. In fact, with some of the modern 360° filming technology that is available now, students may be able to observe the surgery from anywhere and even zoom in and see what is going on inside of the body while the surgery is taking place. There is no doubt that virtual reality is going to change how medical professionals are trained in the near future.
But it isn’t just observing that is important here. One thing that you want to keep in mind is that although it can be invaluable for students to observe someone else’s surgery, there is nothing like the hands-on experience for surgeons, doctors and even nurses. It is not uncommon for students to begin working with actual patients before their education is complete. In fact, in the medical profession that is nearly an absolute. But with virtual reality, students will actually get the opportunity to work hands-on with virtual patients that may give them some major insight into the real job when they start doing it.
The game of doctor will become a reality in the near future for training medical professionals, just as virtual driving simulators are now required for police officers and medical technicians who are going to be operating emergency vehicles. The world of virtual reality is going to open things up in so many ways when it comes to the medical profession. Doctors, nurses, surgeons and every medical professional will have experience working in virtual reality that will translate to the real world and will relieve a great deal of pressure that comes from not having had the hands-on experience prior.
What hospital administrators should be looking at when it comes to incorporating virtual reality programs into their training is whether or not it will affect patient satisfaction scores. As any hospital administrator knows, these are all-important scores when it comes to evaluating the performance of staff, the dispersal of money to various departments, the equipment purchased and a thousand other factors. Whether or not the hospital has high patient satisfaction scores is one of the most reliable indicators of whether or not it is a successful medical facility.
So, if you want to improve the quality of care that happens in your facility, then you definitely need to think about incorporating virtual reality programs in your training. Even though the technology is still very new, there are already programs that are making things easier for your medical staff in making things safer for your patients. As the quality of care goes up among hospitals that are using virtual reality, the more technology will come available because the more demand there will be for it. But now is the time to begin making VR a training standard in your hospital.