The potential applications of virtual reality in the medical area, which we think of, are generally associated with its use in surgery or immediate treatment. However, now a UK-based hospital is set to become one of the first to use this technology in a different way. Torbay Hospital in South Devon has a team which developed the PatientVR. It is a new training series for medical professionals that use head-mounted displays (HMDs) like Oculus Rift. With PatientVR, doctors, nurses will get an insight into the “human factors” which are concerned in treating patients.
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PatientVR- How does it work?
PatientVR is a planned series of films; the first set puts users of the VR headsets in the shoes of a fictional patient. The patient begins to experience chest pain in the video. The clip is filmed in 360 degrees and the users of the headset find themselves in the role of a patient as they are taken to the Emergency Department and later to an operating theatre. The goal is to help medical professionals treating such patients, understand their emotions and feelings in a better way. This is possible as the series of films are showed with some painful events and information.
Nick Peres, the project developer said “Patients can sometimes be overwhelmed by what is happening around them and the PatientVR concept is about placing doctors, nurses and other frontline staff in the patient’s shoes.”
“For some time, our clinical skills team has been using mannequins in staff training, and although the mannequins can blink, breath, bleed and speak, they cannot portray what the patient feels or sees. Virtual reality is big news currently in the gaming and entertainment industry and whilst studying for a PhD I started to look at how we could use virtual reality to help represent the patient voice in medical education and training.”
Dr. Kyle Stewart, the senior house officer of Tobay Hospital said “As a clinician on the front line, I can forget how my actions and words could be interpreted by patients. For the first time, virtual reality technology allows me to become the patient and feel what it is like to be in their shoes. I immediately felt the emotions and concerns of being a patient in a pressured situation and began to appreciate how a clinician’s actions can affect the patient’s state of mind. PatientVR provides a unique opportunity for healthcare professionals to empathize with their patients and improve the patient experience.”
Helping the Professionals
Doctors, nurses and other professionals can view the footage at the Tobay Hospital using the second development kit (DK2) for the Oculus Rift. After watching the film, they discuss their actions, the state of mind of the patients and interactions between the professionals. The hospital has further plans to develop more films which cover other potential medical situations and also on sharing bad news with the patients’ family members.
The hospital hopes that in the long run these videos could be developed to comfort the patients and give them a trial of what they would experience.
What do you think?
Do you think virtual reality can help doctors empathize with the patients? Should more developments be made in this area? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Image Source – wired.co.uk