Embracing Technology: Virtual Reality (VR) and the Future of Skills Development in Healthcare

This Virtual Reality VR in Healthcare Education article is the first installment of a monthly series that provides high-level overviews of the technologies shaping the way health systems train their teams, discover new talent, and provide exceptional care.

With its stimulating environments and true-to-life scenarios, VR will transform how you train your teams…

Like the rest of the global workforce, the healthcare industry has found itself in a tough spot. Retention rates have plummeted, and finding qualified job candidates has grown increasingly complex. Maybe it was the pandemic. Perhaps it was the Great Resignation. Or maybe it was the culmination of world events, coupled with years of ignoring the writing on the wall: Attrition isn’t that bad,  

Because the signs were always there. 

But it doesn’t really matter where the blame lies. All that really matters is that health systems take action. How? By embracing technology and accelerating their digital transformation efforts. 

Processes need to become more streamlined and efficient, risk management needs an overhaul, and job training needs to become a top priority. The right tech can support all of these initiatives.  

Because the pressure is on, and one thing remains clear: Embrace technology and adapt to increasing patient expectations — or risk falling behind competitors.

Embracing Virtual Reality

We’ve been inching towards a breakthrough in virtual technology for the past decade. And now, after years of massive strides and successes, VR is more than just a craze or passing fad — it’s here to stay, and forward-thinking providers are already utilizing VR to train professionals for a variety of roles in healthcare. VR in healthcare education is on the rise.

The Technology

VR headsets, or helmets, use one or two displays to create what appears to be a life-size, 3D virtual environment. This helps the user feel what it’s like to navigate medical settings, interact with patients, and respond to real-world situations — all with the freedom of knowing their actions have zero impact on the physical world.

Hardware, software, and audio … they all work together to engage the mind and senses in ways that change the way we absorb information.

The Experience

Fully-immersive simulations give users a realistic experience complete with sight, sound, and (through the use of haptic technology) tactile functionality; blurring the lines between imagination and reality.

But it’s all far less complicated than it sounds.

Users hop into a simulator and perform specific procedures on a virtual patient. Or they navigate the hustle and bustle of a thriving practice. It’s a wild ride, but not only does this immersion teach the correct processes, but it provides the visual and muscle memory, too, both major aides to the learning retention process.

For many healthcare professionals, the auditory and tactile realism of VR changes the way they view possibilities, making their training a more memorable, transformative experience.

In fact, VR in healthcare education training is so real — and effective — that the hours spent in the simulator count towards specialized externships that lead to certification.

Comparing VR to Standard Training Methods in Healthcare

VR is more than just a fancy platform for gaming enthusiasts. It’s a cost-effective approach to high-impact learning that allows trainers to predict outcomes.

Let’s compare VR to a typical lecture or video.

Your assumption — and hope — is that participants engage and interact with the training in a specific way. That they respond to their coach, internalize the most vital bits of information, and fully understand how to apply their learnings to real-world situations.

But there’s no way to measure your success.

With the data captured from VR headsets, you no longer have to sit back and hope for the best. You receive consistent feedback on user engagement throughout every training session — all without investing in individual trainers.

And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. VR also tracks moment-to-moment behaviors:

  • Training frequency and completion.
  • Verbal fluency.
  • Interactions, clicks, and focus.
  • Drifts in attention and user error.
  • Head and eye movement.

The beauty of VR lies in its ability to entertain and educate in equal measure. Used properly, VR becomes a fully immersive training tool designed to improve patient diagnosis and treatment. Not only does this method help professionals sharpen their technical skills, but it also teaches empathy and compassion.

One study at the University of New England found that VR helped learners better understand age-related health problems, increasing their empathy for older adults — particularly those with Alzheimer’s disease.

The technology is groundbreaking. The science is real. And 82% of healthcare professionals agree that virtual reality makes information more accessible and easier to absorb.

And the results? They’re pretty remarkable. Here are some more studies with fascinating findings:

The Future of Technology and Healthcare

There’s no fighting the trajectory of technology. And if the data holds true, the U.S. will see a shortage of up to nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032. Technology (like VR) can help close the gaps, introducing more well-trained job candidates to the marketplace — so why not embrace it?

Check back next month for our next overview of the technologies elevating the healthcare industry.

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