In the first months of 2020, most countries have been forced to adopt extraordinary measures to protect the population against the COVID-19, such as social distancing or confinement.
To respect these rules, distance-learning or e-learning is becoming the only possible solution for schools, universities or any kind of on-site learning. Collaborative tools are also an essential part of this process because of the need for individuals to keep working together despite the isolation.
Extended realities, especially virtual reality, are helping to mitigate the impact that COVID-19 could have on the learning process in many sectors. One of these sectors, the health sector, has an urgent need to receive a dedicated and effective learning programme.
With a potential boost to GDP of $350 billion for 2030 (PwC, Seeing Is believing, 2019), VR and AR technologies will be present in most healthcare facilities to enhance the work of their professionals.
But, right now, how do the future medical professionals continue to prepare themselves fully in a task that requires close physical contact with patients?
With governments trying to put all their resources together to combat this common enemy, 5 European XR healthcare startups are helping healthcare professionals to continue developing the most needed new skills: Oxford Medical Simulation (UK), FundamentalVR (UK), SimforHealth (FR), Vireed Med (DE) and Adesante (FI).
Their services are targeting professionals and are providing the following benefits:
- Economical: For surgeons, sometimes the only possibility is to train with cadavers. With virtual simulators, these costs are no longer necessary.
- Effective: VR medical training has been proven to be more efficient than traditional learning; it helps the student to interiorize faster different procedures and methodologies.
- Increased sense of empathy with the patient: Due to the realism of the simulators, the learner feels closer to what the patients are going through.
- Social: The tools offer a multi-user mode, in which different professionals can work and collaborate together in the same VR experience. Allows building a greater sense of teamwork.
Oxford Medical Simulation (UK)
The London-based startup, founded in 2017, offers a platform with more than 100 simulated cases ready for medicine and nursing students. By using the platform, learners get a complete experience: instructions, procedure and feedback, making it an intuitive process. The platform can be accessed via a VR headset or through a screen (computer, laptop, mobile).
Since the 16th of March, OMS is offering its distance simulation platform for free. The goal of this initiative is to provide retired professionals and medical students from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK with a platform to help them get the knowledge to assist patients of COVID-19. Free access will be guaranteed until the 31st of May. According to Jack Pottle, OMS Founder and Chief Medical Officer, they offer a possibility to doctors and nurses to train for free when they need it most.
As of 2 April, about 50 hospitals and medical schools are making use of the platform.
Launched in 2012, the London-based startup provides training, simulation and education using virtual and mixed reality in the medical and communications markets.
They have 3 types of solutions to help trainees develop their medical skills and knowledge:
- HapticVR, an educational surgical platform that delivers immersive VR simulations supported by hardware that simulates the touch sense.
- @HomeVR, according to Richard Vincent, CEO & co-founder of FundamentalVR, “the @HomeVR modality provides a highly mobile and cost-effective way to acquire the knowledge and understanding of the technical skills required to carry out surgical procedures”. Since the 1st of April 2020, the platform is available on standalone headsets such as Oculus Quest.
- A data dashboard, accessible from mobile and desktop for real-time knowledge and skills tracking.
As a special action for the treatment of COVID-19, FundamentalVR has developed an online tool to train nurses and doctors on how to operate ventilators with patients affected by the disease in just 30 minutes.
Healthcare professionals can use the tool on their smartphone for free, regardless of the nationality, health system or specialism.
Launched in 2008, the Bordeaux-based startup creates VR experiences to help medical students learn in real work conditions.
By using immersive technologies, SimforHealth offers a new vision for healthcare education. Its platform MedicActiv counts 35 different medical settings where the learner must put into practice all their theoretical and technical knowledge to successfully complete different tasks.
Furthermore, student competencies can be enhanced thanks to the multi-user experience, in which they work hand-in-hand with the instructor in the same medical procedure, getting instant feedback. The experiences are accessible from anywhere with computer, mobile, tablet or VR/AR headsets.
Since the 17th of March, training institutions can apply for a free-access to SimforHealth collection of digital simulators. They will be available for as long as centres are closed due to COVID-19. Learners can access 9 digital simulators that have been designed in close partnership with the IFSI, the official organism that regulates French nursing schools.
Additionally, SimforHealth offers its simulation builder for free. This tool allows the instructor to quickly create custom-made medical simulations to assess learners skills.
Vireed Med (Germany)
Founded in 2017, Hamburg-based Vireed Med is a medical VR learning product for students, doctors, nurses and medical professionals to learn, train and simulate medical interventions and emergency situations. “Vireed” stands for Virtual Reality Education.
Today, they find themselves in a product development phase, then again they have 2 learning modules already available: “basic life support” and “cardiac massage with haptic”. 2 more modules, “advanced life support” and “dyspnea” will come soon.
The activation of the first beta version is planned for the last quarter of 2020.
Founded in 2017, the Vantaa-based startup offers its virtual training and simulation centre, Surgery Vision, for surgeons. Their vision is to create risk-free surgical procedures. For this, they combine VR and human body 3D models to help surgeons plan strategically, by previewing all the details about the affected body part.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, Surgery Vision is focusing on ICU personnel training. This means that professionals from other areas can quickly be instructed on how to proceed with patients in a delicate state of health. The training is delivered in VR as an individual exercise.