Technology has advanced the medical field immensely in the last decade and continues to embed itself in everything from treatments to education. It’s made it easier and faster for patients to receive test results and make appointments, and doctors use delicate, precise devices and robots to aid them in performing countless procedures from checking patients’ ears to complex brain surgeries. While many people may feel nervous about adding these new machines to the operating room, the accuracy of these devices remains unmatched and can really help provide optimal care for patients. Here, Dr. Joel Arun Sursas – the head of Clinical Affairs at Biorithm – explains the uses of virtual reality (VR) in medical education.
Today, educators are using equipment, such as virtual reality, to provide students with an exact model of real-life scenarios, without the real-life patients. This prepares students for a variety of different medical scenarios without genuine risks. That way, when they finish their education and head out as residents, they already have some experience.
As of today, numerous studies have been conducted to see how virtual reality affects students. Thus far, it has produced favorable results and medical professionals and educators view it as a great tool in educating future medical professionals.
What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality, or VR, is electronic equipment that looks similar to ski goggles. It is placed over the eyes of the user and allows he/she to enter a virtual world through a three-dimensional, computer-generated program. It has been extremely popular in households all across the world for everything from traveling the world (virtually) to gaming, but it can also simulate actual medical procedures.
The graphics can be quite realistic, which is why it’s the perfect tool for medical students to use.
How is VR Used in Medical Education?
Because VR can render such life-like situations, professors have begun to use VR as a way to teach both clinical and surgical procedures, how to treat elderly patients, and as an aid in general learning so the student is ready to treat a real patient.
The ability to manipulate three-dimensional avatars in a virtual world allows the students to access educational programs to study human anatomy and treatment techniques, and practice how they would respond and treat a patient. Because it is all done virtually, there are no risks, a student can go back to a certain spot and try again, and they can record how well they do to track their progress.
Another way medical students could benefit from VR is from gaining “hands on” experience when treating elderly and dementia patients. Older patients usually require a completely different approach since they are likely to suffer from forms of dementia and other ailments, such as macular degeneration and hearing loss, which can often make treatment far more difficult than any other average patient. VR allows them to train for these situations so that the students will be ready when an elderly patient presents these predicaments in the hospital or clinic they are assigned to.
Lastly, VR is an unmatched study tool. Being able to examine and experiment on VR avatars gives an advanced visual approach that textbooks simply fall short on. Watching various medical scenarios played out in a near-authentic way will also help students prepare for difficult circumstances. As mentioned above, they also have the option to practice medical procedures by manipulating the VR avatars and gives them a chance to develop bedside manners.
Outcomes of Using VR in Medical Education
Since other studies that focus on the effects of the excessive use of technology shows that it negatively impacts users, one can only wonder how adding technology to the classroom can affect students.
In recent years, there have been several studies following the effects of VR in medical education. Thus far, the results have been favorable. However, these studies have revealed that while VR does have a positive effect on students, the effect is fairly minimal. Though VR only slightly improves students’ medical knowledge and skill set, the fact of the matter is that it remains a constructive pedagogical tool and many may argue that its positive influence should continue to be applied in the classroom.
A recent study reviewed several surveys and findings of several other studies and divided the results into two groups: one that only used traditional learning and the other that incorporated VR in the educational pedagogy. The purpose of this study was to see if it improved students’ cognitive skills, overall comprehension of medical facts, and how to practice procedures. The results showed that when compared to traditional learning, the use of VR in medical education somewhat improved students’ comprehension, as reported in their test scores, and none of the students recounted any harmful effects.
Another study followed how students responded to elderly and dementia patients while using a VR simulation. The goal of this study was to improve treatment when dealing with a patient who may have an ailment that inhibits communication. From hearing impairments to dementia, VR simulations can replicate scenarios where a patient may have these impediments which give students the opportunity to work with them and get valuable practice time.
Overall, using VR as a teaching method has proved to be fairly useful in medical education and will likely continue to benefit students in the future as technology advances.
About Dr. Joel Arun Sursas:
Joel Arun Sursas is a skilled Medical Doctor and Health Informatician motivated to solve administrative problems in healthcare. His determination to work tirelessly to bridge the gap between doctors and engineers is resulting in medical technology solutions that improve patient outcomes, enhance monitoring, and protect patient privacy. Dr. Joel Arun Sursas is an effective communicator who facilitates the achievement of team goals.