VR has a profound ability to change the ways in which we work, play, and engage with the world around us—and perhaps nowhere does that promise shine more brightly than in its implications for the medical profession. Last year, we announced our partnership with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) to build a VR simulation that would efficiently and effectively train medical students and staff to respond in high-stakes, low-frequency pediatric emergencies. Built in Unity with platform programming by AiSolve with VFX development from BioflightVR, the simulation formed the backbone of a six-month pilot study in mid- to late 2017 with the goal of testing the validity of VR’s use as a platform for medical training.
The initial results were so promising, CHLA will now require the training for all incoming residents and offer it as an optional supplement for med students. And today, we’re excited to expand the original reach of this innovative VR research program with the addition of 11 more medical institutions and healthcare networks in the US and beyond—and the donation of Oculus Go headsets to run the simulations with the easiest, most convenient VR set-up currently available.
“A limitation of many outpatient offices and care centers is lack of space for simulation rooms and simulation centers,” explains principal researcher on the project Dr. Josh Sherman. “Using Oculus Go for our VR modules will allow for on-the-spot training without the need for the extra real estate.”
Together, Oculus and CHLA will deploy Oculus Go headsets and the VR simulation to the 11 institutions and healthcare providers who are participating in CHLA’s research initiative later this fall, including Columbia University Irving Medical Center; Johns Hopkins Children’s Center; Kaiser Permanente Health Network, Southern California; Medical University of Vienna; New York University / Langone Medical Center; Stanford University / Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital; University of Bern; University of Washington; and Yale New Haven Health.
“Currently, we’re only able to run critical events such as pediatric resuscitation training two to four times per year since we cannot take our teams away from patient care more frequently,” says Kathryn Schaivone (MHA, CHSE) of Kaiser Permanente. “VR levels the playing field in a way that doesn’t happen with in-person methods and provides the flexibility for more frequent participation in simulation.”
The initial VR training module focuses on resuscitation procedures for childhood seizure and shock. That said, CHLA’s researchers see this next phase of the project as a unique opportunity to crowdsource and investigate best practices, ultimately expanding the variety of future modules.
“Now that we have the proof-of-concept, we’re thinking about other skills and medical scenarios that are considered low-frequency, high-stakes within our field and in larger fields such as emergency medicine, critical care, obstetrics,” notes CHLA principal researcher Dr. Todd Chang.
“Immersive VR simulations help learners build new memories through realistic experiences that traditional methods cannot provide,” says Rachel Umoren (MD, MS) of University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital. “Doctors and other healthcare providers can repeat a task over and over in the simulation with standardized feedback, honing and perfecting their skills.”
Experiential education, or learning by doing, has been the gold standard in pedagogical theory and practical application for generations. We see it in action every day, from high school science labs and 4H programs hands-on activities beginning as early as kindergarten. We also see it in valuable on-the-job training and medical residencies, where doctors complete their education with real-world experiences that simply can’t be replicated in a traditional classroom. Thanks to its uniquely immersive nature, VR can bridge the gap between medical school and hospital rounds by placing students and staff in realistic training scenarios that can replicate the stress, adrenaline, and time-sensitive circumstances of life-or-death situations—without putting patient safety on the line.
“Much of the research involving VR is still in the very early stages, so it’s incredibly exciting to see such positive results from our work with CHLA and growing interest among healthcare professionals,” says Oculus Head of Public Policy James Hairston. “Thanks to the ease-of-use and portability of Oculus Go, we’re happy to help this cutting-edge pilot program begin to scale and look forward to its future findings.”
— The Oculus Team