The Future of Virtual Reality in HTM Training

By: Jessica Evans

November 12, 2020

Using virtual reality to train HTM professionals could help offset expensive training costs to fly teams to training facilities and allows professionals to work on new skills without purchasing new equipment. VR offers a low-risk environment for HTM professionals to learn or relearn critical skills.

Recently, AAMI presented the HTM Live! webinar, Virtual Reality— Training for the Future, presented by James Linton, MsIM, Club, PmP, AAMIF, St. Clair College, and James Durocher, St. Clair College. This webinar explored the ways Linton and Durocher have successfully used virtual reality in their classrooms at St. Clair College and their professional experiences as HTM professionals. 

Danielle McGeary, vice president of healthcare technology management (HTM) at AAMI, facilitated the webinar, which was free for AAMI members and sponsored by Philips as part of their mission to support HTM professionals. Philips focuses on improving health and enabling better outcomes. The webinar discussed the different types of VR and how each has applications for HTM professionals.

Helping meet the needs on the ground, especially in the current pandemic crisis, means that HTM professionals need to be well trained and prepared to handle all sorts of crises as they emerge. But if an HTM professional cannot travel to receive training on a new MRI machine, for example, then that person is not prepared to be part of the clinical team. Using VR removes the travel barrier, which, in turn, creates a well-trained, well-prepared HTM team. 

Because VR is so immersive, it creates an entirely new environment for a user. For example, practicing life-saving skills in VR make the participants feel like they’re actually performing the action.   According to Linton, simulations create better training scenarios  and, help users retain information. 

When St. James College shifted its anatomy lab lessons from models to virtual reality, test scores and student knowledge retention rates increased dramatically. One of the reasons for that boost in performance and knowledge is that VR helps users process the visual component of using a machine or performing an action and the sounds that go along with it. 

The VR Spectrum

The VR spectrum isn’t just VR in that it’s the same across the board. “What most people think of as virtual reality is in fact extended reality,” said Linton. 

On the far edge of the spectrum are things like video games that are complete virtual reality (VR) where a user puts on a headset and shuts out the physical world.  Augmented reality (AR) adds digital elements to the live view, for example, Snapchat lenses.   Mixed reality (MR) combines elements of both AR and VR.

The webinar discussed the three varieties of AR/VR—Absorb, Blend, and Create—and how each of these options add variety and accessibility to training for the HTM professional. 

AR Absorb allows users to leverage existing AR technology in simple and easy-to-use formats, like a smartphone's visual translation app. VR Absorb, allows users to move through virtual environments and do things like train on new machines. “This is the most basic form of AR,” said Linton, and equated it to consuming content versus building something.

AR Blend allows content to blend into reality, creating a new world but with the ability to still view the actual reality behind it. VR Blend provides a high level of interactivity because users can actually see things and manipulate objects. 

AR Creation provide users with the ability to interact with objects and create new objects. VR Create creates new things within the VR. Then, the objects created can be utilized in other mediums like AR or for 3D printing. 

The Future of VR in HTM

Linton stressed that the results he and his department saw after adding in VR are significant and could certainly have applications in training HTM professionals. The average course grade went up by almost 11 percent, indicating that VR might have real traction in working populations as well. 

Engagement in learning and increased retention for training help improve performance. Instructor engagement is greater as well since teachers are more excited to teach material that students retain and understand. The cost savings of adding VR to training departments would allow HTM professionals to significantly increase their skills.

The cost of adding VR to training departments will vary depending on the type of VR that’s added into a training modality and can range from $500 to almost $6,000. XR is already in use in the industry, both in the private sector and in educational settings. 

VR represents a small investment that’s suited to the “millennial generation,” according to Linton, since it’s tech-focused, experienced driven, and accessible. Linton noted that as technology hubs and gatekeepers of healthcare, HTM departments need to stay on the cutting edge of VR technologies.

Future webinars are planned. Check out the AAMI events page to register for future events.