VR & AR in Medical Education

Opportunity

When it comes to medical education and training across the country, not much has changed how young people are taught to care for others. The same goes for medical professionals who must continually keep their skills current.

Medical students typically attend lectures and shadow tenured clinicians in the field.

Medical professionals update their competencies through online education modules and by attending conferences. Some get the opportunity to gain hands-on opportunities using life-like simulations.

These approaches work well but sometimes are costly, resource-intensive and aren’t immersive enough to help learners’ retain knowledge.

Medical Student Using VR Headset

Solution

As part of efforts to transform medical education, Jump Simulation, through its Medical Visualization and Advanced Imaging and Modeling teams, uses the multi-dimensionality of virtual and augmented realities to develop learning opportunities for medical students, residents and professionals.

This is to condense the time faculty spends developing lectures and create interactive experiences allowing students to stay focused, comprehend, and ultimately build competencies in whatever skills they are learning.

Impact

Several VR and AR projects have either been developed or underway and show promise as successful education modes. They reduce the time it takes to put lectures together, requiring less faculty and clinical educator time.

Students can be immersed in an experience without distractions and can move at their own pace.

Using VR and AR is also exposing learners to opportunities they likely wouldn’t have received during formal training due to lack of exposure.

"We believe virtual, and augmented realities give us the ability to convey complicated information in digital media formats that actually transfer knowledge to individuals, much like the movie where Keanu Reeves learns Kung Fu by plugging into the matrix."
- Dr. Matthew Bramlet, director of Jump Advanced Imaging and Modeling

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Plugging into the Matrix

With the internet in nearly every home, business and social organization - individuals across the country have unlimited access to knowledge in the form of words, images, videos and recordings on just about any subject they want to know about. This includes a variety of online education courses that people can choose from.

So, why aren’t we all geniuses at this point? There are a variety of reasons.

According to Dr. Matthew Bramlet, director of Jump Advanced Imaging and Modeling, a major one is that it’s difficult for people to absorb complex subject material by merely reading content or watching videos.

"There are too many distractions, and it’s difficult to stay focused while independently learning complex material with any degree of multi-dimensionality to it," said Dr. Bramlet. "We believe virtual, and augmented realities give us the ability to convey complicated information in digital media formats that actually transfer knowledge to individuals, much like the movie where Keanu Reeves learns Kung Fu by plugging into the matrix."

With that, Jump Medical Visualization (MedVis), and Jump AIM are developing and researching a variety of VR and AR learning opportunities for medical students, residents and professionals.

The idea is to reduce the time faculty spends developing lectures and create interactive experiences, allowing students to stay focused, comprehend and ultimately build competencies in whatever skills they are learning.

VR and AR Courses

Thanks to an ARCHES grant, Dr. Bramlet and the Jump AIM team developed a one-of-a-kind software allowing surgeons to pre-plan procedures in VR and teach anatomy and physiology to medical students.

Since then, requests have exploded for him and his team to help others build clinical education and training using this approach.

As a result, Jump AIM actively assists faculty with the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UICOMP), medical students and clinical educators within OSF HealthCare to develop their own immersive lectures in VR.

For example, all OSF HealthCare nurses going from the hospital floor to the Intensive Care Unit must go through three days of training and onboarding with one of those days dedicated to arrhythmia detection. This traditionally included eight hours of lectures, PowerPoint presentations and going over rhythm strips.

By converting the arrhythmia detection portion of the class into a VR lecture or an immersive simulation experience, learners could get through the content in less than two hours. Accounting for the time spent engaging and interacting with clinical educators, using VR still led to a 50% reduction in training costs.

All medical students at UICOMP get to experience VR as well as Dr. Bramlet’s software. Dr. Bramlet is also using VR and his software to teach bioengineering students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign about cardiovascular physiology, a first for the director of Jump AIM.

Another way Jump is transforming medical education is through AR, where computer-generated images are superimposed into a real-world view. About ten projects have been developed or are in the works and are focused on expanding access or exposure to specific learning opportunities.  

"There are certain conditions that are so rare that learners will likely never get first-hand experience diagnosing or treating them as a medical student or even a resident," said Kyle Formella, director of Jump MedVis. "We have a golden opportunity to create virtual experiences that replicate complications, situations or pathologies learners may face in the future."

The largest project undertaken by Jump MedVis is the development of the Code Cart AR app.

There is an ongoing need to ensure all OSF HealthCare hospitals understand how to use pediatric code carts, which help clinicians quickly respond to pediatric emergencies. However, training is challenging due to faculty and clinical educator availability and the cost and difficulty of maintaining a fully and correctly stocked code cart for educational purposes.

The Code Cart App is a three-dimensional, interactive platform that allows clinicians to quickly learn about the contents of the pediatric code cart, how it works and how to use it in the event of a pediatric emergency.

The app gives front-line Mission Partners the ability to practice using a pediatric code cart in any environment of their choosing, all at their own pace.

A pilot study of the app suggests that learners who spent about an hour with the app could find code cart items in a timed skills test faster than those who did not.

A more extensive study is underway.

Value of VR and AR Education

With the ability to create scalable, interactive events, Jump MedVis and AIM leaders see the potential of using AR and VR to reduce costs in training and free up faculty resources while still ensuring learners gain the access and exposure to the experiences they need to best care for patients.

They also see the opportunity to reach those who may not learn well in the classroom or prefer taking online courses.

"Going out on a limb, I believe that putting complex information into the VR or AR format can level the playing field for those who traditionally have been categorized as poor learners," said Dr. Bramlet.  "This method of teaching hits on all of the types of learning many people align to--visual, auditory, hands-on and reading and writing."

Simultaneously, both Dr. Bramlet and Formella are careful not to turn every piece of education into a digital media format.

"We try to make sure we are aligned with a well-understood problem instead of throwing something fancy at a problem that we’re not confident about," said Kyle Formella, director of Jump Medical Visualization. "Our team has gotten over its honeymoon phase with these technologies, and we are more apt to use them where they are useful and will make a difference for those we serve."