Could virtual reality (VR) help transform the way healthcare training is delivered in the future? The popular headset, the Oculus Rift will be taking preorders in the autumn, ready for units to be shipped to buyers in the first quarter (sometime between January and March) next year.
Much of the enthusiasm for VR has been centred around gaming, with video game enthusiasts salivating over the possibilities of being immersed even further in their favourite genres. You could, for a moment, experience barrel rolls in a futuristic dogfight, or perhaps come up close to a dinosaur, only to fight for your life when a T-Rex suddenly comes crashing through the jungle.
Some of the most innovative uses for this technology could be for learning. Microsoft – the creator of the innovative HoloLens system (an augmented reality style of VR which allows users to experience holograms in environments such as their living room or office) – envisages medical students using their system to see anatomy come to life, interacting with virtual organs in the safety of the classroom. Cadavers are expensive for many medical schools across the world and VR (along with 3D printing) could offer tomorrow’s students innovative new ways to practice surgical techniques safely and cheaply.
Next Galaxy, a US-based provider of VR technologies, recently teamed up with VR HealthNet to create innovative VR solutions for the healthcare industry. Next Galaxy already has an agreement to develop VR applications for the Miami Children’s Hospital to teach CPR and other life saving techniques. This new partnership will take things even further, opening up the possibilities for VR to be used in even more amazing ways.
Mary Spio, President of Next Galaxy Corp, said: “We are excited to deploy virtual reality into the growing healthcare industry. As evidenced by our agreement with Miami Children’s Hospital, we have developed a strong expertise in applying the principles of virtual reality to augment the training of healthcare professionals in order to improve patient outcomes and reduce cost. This agreement with VR HealthNet will help accelerate those initiatives over the coming quarters.”
Virtual reality is already making inroads in the NHS, with many hospitals using the technology to help train medical students. Queen’s Hospital in Romford, Essex, has gone one step further and started a pilot scheme to use VR technology to give cancer patients a better understanding of their treatment.
Jackie Hartigan, lead radiographer, says: “Jackie Hartigan said: “Patients have been really keen to take part in this project. It will help them to understand what happens inside their body, what will happen during their treatment and how important it is to follow the treatment preparation instructions.”
It is not hard to imagine how VR could be used to deliver basic life support training, for example, in schools and other settings. The level of immersion offered could not only make learning fun but also save lives as well.