Blog by Dr Jon Ferdinand, pictured above with fellow GP Associate Directors, Dr Madeleine Lameris (centre) and Dr Kinnary Martin. ASME 2018
Imagine being the first doctor at a cardiac arrest. I used to dread the thought. Despite having practiced numerous times on Resusci Anne (lifesize practice resuscitation doll for medical students and first aiders) I never had a sense of the adrenaline-fuelled emotional challenges that the scenario could bring. Well, now it looks like there is something that can help deliver exactly that for medics in training.
During this year’s Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME) annual conference in July, I was amongst delegates trying out a virtual reality (VR) app that simulates clinical encounters. The company who created this particular app, VIRTI, were awarded the ASME 2018 Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) and Technology Innovation Excellence (TIE) prizes for their work.
I loaded the app and put my phone in the cardboard viewer and in seconds I found myself in a hospital room with a nurse and an unconscious patient. In this scenario you are called by the nurse to see a collapsed patient. The video then offers three options asking you what you would do and it times your response before moving on to the next step.
The video is shot in 360o and feels very immersive especially when the room fills with people to assist with the resuscitation”
But the experience still lacks the ability to let you to interact with the environment – in the way that users of some of the well known gaming platforms are able to do. If it becomes more of an interactive experience, the educational value of the medical VR experience will go up – and the software developers are working on this. Very soon, the technology to allow students to interact with each other in a simulated clinical encounter will be widely available. Any of you who had the chance to try out the recent Star Wars VR experience in London will know how good this could be.
Medical students currently use the Addenbrookes Simulation Centre to train in emergency scenarios. This uses an electronic mannequin that can mimic clinical signs and symptoms. Arranging clinical simulated experiences with technology like this takes up a fair amount of resource, organisation and time. On demand VR videos would be more accessible for students (although the need for VR goggles may limit this accessibility).
My GP colleague at the Cambridge GP Education Group, Dr Yasar Khan, recently carried out some research as part of his masters in medical education. He specifically looked at the use of VR for training GPs in medical emergencies. He’s enthusiastic about the possible applications in medical education, but he feels we need more research to establish it as a validated educational tool.
About the author
Dr Jon Ferdinand is a GP Partner at Wickhambrook Surgery in Newmarket and he is Associate Director at the GP Education Group at the School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge. He spends part of the week looking after some of the oldest patients in West Suffolk and part of the week at Cambridge training medical students. He develops educational resources for medical students and is interested in how new media can be optimally used to enhance education. Follow Jon @DrJonFerdinand
Media queries: Lucy Lloyd, Communications Manager at the Primary Care Unit