Running to stand still at Checkpoint Charlie with VR goggles on...

Running to stand still at Checkpoint Charlie with VR goggles on...

If you have visited Berlin and stood at Checkpoint Charlie, you immediately understand this geo-political nightmare of a situation. You also quickly grasp the importance of this iconic guardhouse between the East vs West. A pivotal position of assessment / regulation that required meticulous processing before being able to enter. This is how I have come to understand and articulate building a start-up in Healthcare. I need to understand as a start-up / Entrepreneur, how do you get “in”, in Healthcare? How do you get through from innovation to adoption?

More widely, how does Healthcare adopt innovation? Particularly, if the industry is running to stand still. Are health services just busy with day to day requirements i.e. staff shortages, wait times and thus innovation gets palmed to the side and concepts of excellence and advancement lag?

Now, lay people understand Healthcare is highly regulated. Healthcare has dense management structures and Healthcare is built from evidence-based practice and quality research.

Google tells me that the definition of innovation is a new method, idea, product, etc, So when you look to innovate in Healthcare how do you explain that the research is thin because it is new. How do you explain that the technology isn’t proven yet because the idea hasn’t been used before? How do you explain your value proposition because nobody has done what you are doing?

What I do know is a new frontier in healthcare education is coming and we can expect immersive, hands on interaction that enables learners to deconstruct anatomy and drift through physiology within a virtual 3-dimensional environment. This is how virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will allow learners to integrate understanding through visual and immersive information. It is known that learners in healthcare professions report difficulty translating concept-based scientific knowledge into practice. VR and AR technology are changing this by demonstrating an ability to improve user performance in tasks such as spatial understanding, memorization and training by allowing users to experience applications from a first-person perspective and to interact using natural techniques. Digital manipulation allows a user to concentrate and practice key tasks or investigate complex concepts. It is important to understand that this new advancement of technology is now influencing the way nursing education is conducted.

What is the offer? What is the benefit? Being able to spatially understand data, walk around the cardiac conduction system or interact and manipulate with the Vagus nerve for example, allows exponentially improved engagement and realistic interaction for the learner. Inspect flesh, bone, lymph glands and organs without even cutting the skin. This is pro-actively enabling a new pedagogy of education to take shape. A new dimension to learning is arriving, boosting effectiveness and transforming attitudes towards education. The question is how will Healthcare approach it?

BUT remember to not forgot the patients. All “Use cases” for new tech, all focus on improved patient outcomes and nursing education does the same. We focus highly on patient safety and quality patient assessment. We understand if the nurse has better skills, the better care they give. This is a defining feature of the clinical value of VR training in Nursing. This is not a shiny new coin or a new toy, this is change. Scientific validation is real and ongoing. Studies are consistently demonstrating that VR and AR help learners learn faster, learn more and retain knowledge longer. If you train the staff at the bedside to detect deterioration sooner, the patient will go home sooner. Now, that isn’t just good for the patient, it is good for the bottom line of the healthcare industry. This is not “over claiming” the technology, this is facts. Quantifiable data to prove these teaching methods not only matches current standards but advances them.

Disruptive innovation in healthcare is not always well received. We understand there are assemblies of stakeholders across Healthcare and even more regulations and guidelines to follow. I also understand tightly held senior positions can be reluctant to change, risk averse and thus adoption historically is slow. Yet, we all know everything comes out in the wash. If you sort through LinkedIn or twitter, general tech or healthcare media and more importantly research journals you will consistently find the messaging that the most advantageous aspect of new immersive tech is that there is no disadvantage to it. It is safe, it is relatively cheap when you place it next to clinical simulation for example and it is easily and readily reproducible. For the spend, it has benefits with little risk. This sits well within the Healthcare ethos.

VR and AR will have a place in the future of clinical skills training within healthcare. As technology advances and time becomes even more precious to healthcare professionals, the way their education is delivered also needs to change. At present certain universities have integrated and implemented varying forms of AR and VR into their curriculum to support undergraduates but little access is known to nurses working clinically. The question is, how will the immersive technology get through "Checkpoint Charlie" ?

But we will not forget that in the meantime, just like winter, change is coming. You just have to decide, which reality you will choose.


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