In short: Ontario’s Queen’s University, digital healthcare simulation solutions provider SimForHealth, and HTC’s Vive have now announced a partnership to launch Canada's first VR-specific medical training center. Scheduled to open in January in the Faculty of Health Sciences Clinical Simulation Centre at Queen’s University, the goal is to give medical students a chance to experience diagnosing and caring for patients without the risks inherent to real-world emergencies. That won't be implemented all at once, however. The University will begin by studying the impact of VR on the learning process for medical students while HTC Vive will provide the necessary hardware and SimForHealth supplies the relevant simulations.
To begin with, the simulation itself is set to center around a scenario in which a patient has been admitted to the emergency room for chest pain. Participants will take on the role of the physician in order to determine the best course of action and administer care. If everything goes smoothly, it will then be used for undergraduate level medical training purposes with plans to expand to cover all aspects of the medical education process later on. That will also include postgraduate training for specialists.
Background: VR has been at the forefront of research into new training methods for more than a year now, even making appearances at large corporations such as Walmart. That's been driven, in large part, by consistent improvements to the technology itself with new innovations across the board. Shifts from either wired PC or smartphone-dependent iterations to wire-free and standalone headsets, for example, have converged with advancements in screen technology and more accurate head and appendage tracking over the past year. In the US, that's helped VR extend well beyond service industries and retail to include medical residency training and other educational uses. At the global scale, those studies and implementations of VR range from multi-million dollar science laboratory environments for pre-college students to pain management for patients undergoing medical procedures.
Impact: So this obviously won't be the first use of VR in medicine by any stretch of the imagination. However, this will be Canada's first major research and educational center focused entirely on the use of immersive virtual simulations in the medical field. Queen's University could be well placed at the forefront of medical VR research and learning in Canada.