WVSOM presents an educational component in virtual reality

When you think of virtual reality, images from video games and 3D movies may be the first thoughts that cross your mind. But the technology is also expanding its reach in educational environments.

West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) medical students have a new method of learning patient scenarios, which uses a headset and manual controllers in a virtual reality simulation.

WVSOM is the first medical school in the state to purchase the SimX virtual reality medical simulation, according to Jenny Patton, WVSOM’s electronic health record manager, who helped facilitate the introduction of the learning tool to school.

“Virtual reality cuts costs and enables distance learning. With SimX, instructors, learners and observers can work from different locations and join virtual reality to work on the same cases using virtual patients, ”Patton said. “Currently, SimX is the only system that also allows you to run in-person multiplayer cases together in your simulation and communicate like you would in real life. “

In July, WVSOM purchased six virtual reality headsets, with the ability to run three different case scenarios at a time with up to six participants. Other institutions and organizations that use SimX technology include Mayo Clinic, Ohio State University, US Department of Veterans Affairs, New York University, Purdue University, Pennsylvania State University, the US Air Force and Stanford University, among others.

Patton said she has been suggesting the use of virtual reality in the school curriculum for about eight years and that she was happy the school pulled the trigger to incorporate these tools into the curriculum due to the flexibility of virtual reality.

“We will be able to simulate any environment, any scenario or diagnosis, and any type of patient, whether pediatric or adult. The use of virtual reality in healthcare education will ensure that the curriculum can be updated and implemented effectively, ”said Patton. “Virtual reality simulation can be set up anywhere, which means instructors can integrate it into lessons, breakout sessions and even send students home with headsets so they can work together.” in multiplayer simulation scenarios facilitated by a remote instructor. Technology allows students to immerse themselves in the most realistic clinical environment possible.

Professors and students tested the technology in simulation experiments in September at the school’s clinical assessment center, where simulation is at the forefront of medical education. Some treated a sham patient who had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic, while others treated a more complex case involving a pediatric patient who collapsed during a course of exercise and went into ventricular tachycardia , where participants later had to resuscitate the patient.

Second-year student Andrew Green took part in two different virtual reality demonstrations. He said he didn’t yet think simulations replaced working with human-patient simulators, but could present a realistic experience of how students should interact with patients.

“Before we do rotations and dive deeper into real-life scenarios, it can give us additional practice without having to coordinate the use of standardized patients,” he said.

Patton said virtual reality simulation has the ability to provide environments that human-patient simulators cannot. For example, students may be placed in an environment where they sort out a patient in a helicopter, or they are on the street treating patients following a car explosion with mass casualties. In virtual reality, the patient can move around, show expressions, move extremities, wiggle their toes or fingers, or puff up their cheeks.

“The technology automatically recognizes when vital signs, such as blood pressure or pulse, are being assessed, when the correct dose of medication is given and when procedures or tests are completed. SimX uses an EHR [electronic health record] in cases as well, so you can see patient history, medications and allergies as well as active orders, lab and imaging results, ”she said. “When students order medications, labs, imaging, or other procedures, the EHR automatically updates those orders during the case scenario. Ultrasound can also be integrated into this technology.

With the purchase of SimX technology, the variety of case scenarios spans the gamut from routine clinic visits to multi-trauma cases, and from baseline assessments to post-operative critical care cases. Over 150 scenarios, over 30 different environments, and over 300 tools and procedures can be integrated with virtual reality technology, Patton said.

Another benefit of the technology is that it provides reporting and debriefing tools that allow educators to track student performance. Reports show which critical actions were taken and which were not, along with time stamps for each action taken.

In November, Patton plans to work with professors at WVSOM to develop unique case scenarios, a process she says can take 12 to 16 weeks. She hopes virtual reality simulation will become a permanent addition to the WVSOM program.

Linda Boyd, DO, vice president of academic affairs and dean of WVSOM, understands the importance of simulated health scenarios in medical education. She said she was delighted that WVSOM continued to implement alternative learning methods for its future physicians.

“SimX virtual reality technology takes simulation to a new level. What I love is that you get to see the whole environment, the hospital room, the patient and, most importantly, the family, ”Boyd said. “In one case, the family member was worried that their loved one was feeling unwell, and seeing this, the ‘doctors’ in the simulation could talk to the patient’s family and reassure them that their loved one was being treated. Since medicine is more than just giving the right drugs and doing the right tests, being able to interact in a realistic and complex scenario is invaluable for medical students learning their trade.


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