Health care professionals are turning to VR to learn how to treat COVID-19 patients

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As hospitals around the world continue to struggle to cope with healthcare shortages, some have begun enlisting those with little to no experience in treating infectious diseases to help meet the demand.  Doctors and nurses with expertise in other areas, as well as once retired practitioners, have stepped up to combat the spread and flatten the curve. 

When treating patients who have tested positive, healthcare workers must use extreme caution and follow strict guidelines for treating and interacting with patients. This has led some hospitals to employ an unlikely training method: virtual reality simulation. According to an article by CNN, over 300 doctors at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles have already undergone training with help from VR technology.  Among the skills being taught by VR are how to assess a patient’s symptoms and how to perform CPR while wearing protective gear. Given the limitations of time and resources, the medical field has turned to innovative, emerging technologies such as VR to help fill the gaps. 

Many hospitals have utilized software from tech startup Virti, which provides detailed feedback and metrics on procedures that medical professionals need more practice within. The company signed up 70,000 new users in the past three weeks in hospitals and universities worldwide.  VR allows doctors and nurses to make mistakes in simulation and learn from them before they treat human patients. It can be extremely beneficial to doctors who are just entering into practice as well as those who have been retired for years. Even those who have been in the field in recent years may not necessarily be trained in how to safely treat infectious disease patients, such as those tested positive for COVID-19. Most importantly, VR instills a sense of confidence in trainees that is invaluable during these uncertain and scary times. 

Early clinical research on VR training has concluded that such technology can be effective in decreasing injury, speeding up processes, and improving overall results. In fact, a 2018 study determined that people trained by VR had “lower performance errors and higher accuracy compared to those trained by conventional approaches.” With that being said, VR training should never replace traditional training methods entirely. Virtual reality is mostly intended to serve as a complementary training tool or for when time and resources are limited. 



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