FundamentalVR collaborated with Imperial College to offer free virtual training in ventilating COVID-19 patients.
There is an unprecedented demand for ventilators due to the coronavirus pandemic, yet the physical machines are really only part of the equation.
In the United Kingdom, the country’s National Health Service (NHS) is having to quickly redeploy doctors and nurses from other disciplines as well as those coming out of retirement to provide support in the Intensive Care Units.
To help medical staff (re)acquire the necessary skills to do that, FundamentalVR, a start-up that develops immersive simulations to train surgeons, has worked with Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to develop an online tool that allows medical professionals, to gain the key knowledge they need for ventilating patients in around 30 minutes.
The program which consists of short how-to videos and educational graphics is being rolled out at Imperial College London prior to its deployment nationally and internationally to help combat Covid-19.
“It takes years to specialise a clinician in intensive care; while this new training course is not designed to replace this expertise, it will enable health systems across the world to act now and provide the care that their patients desperately need,” says project lead Professor Ara Darzi, co-director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London. “With greater capacity, we can help more people survive this illness, and prevent health systems from becoming overwhelmed during this crisis,” he added.
FundamentalVR is also helping hospitals with another impact of the COVID-19 situation, as student surgeons are seeing their studies interrupted as hospitals are reserved for essential care. With non-urgent surgeries cancelled, the company, based out of London and Boston, recently made its Fundamental Surgery platform multiuser. This allows students to exercise their skills at home while in isolation using the company’s @HomeVR system which was launched two weeks ago for standalone VR headsets such as Oculus Quest and HTC Vive Focus Plus.
It allows students and teachers to join each other in the virtual OR, where they can interact, ask questions, view each other’s procedures and get feedback all done remotely and safely. This remote system is also currently live at Imperial College London and a dozen @HomeVR headsets have been sent at the request of a New York teaching hospital. The procedures available are being phased in for existing customers starting with Total Hip Arthroplasty (Anterior Approach).
Fundamental Surgery has been deployed with medical institutions around the world, including Mayo Clinic and UCLA in the U.S., UCLH in the U.K. and Sana in Germany. Their hardware-agnostic software solution fuses Cutaneous (tactile vibration) and Kinesthetics (force feedback & position) haptic technologies. The platform, which can be optimized for different stages of the learning process, mimics the physical cues of surgical actions, medical tools, and tissue variations.
Studies have shown that this aids learning in helping trainees develop the muscle memory essential for surgical skills. The platform utilizes off-the-shelf hardware (PCs/laptops, VR headset and haptic arms), making it less than a tenth of the cost of current learning practices.
Every user interaction is measured and recorded, such as surgical gaze, respect for tissue and efficiency of movement, widely connected with surgical proficiency, to provide accurate real-time feedback all within a single display that can be accessed anywhere by any device, which again lends itself nicely to the new normal of remote learning and working which is likely to persist in the coming months.
“When COVID-19 struck we were delighted to work with the team at Imperial College London on the rapid development of this important Ventilator Trainer and are pleased to see it roll out to help build confidence and competence with Healthcare professionals at this challenging time,” concludes Richard Vincent, CEO and Co-Founder of Fundamental VR, saying this is a good example of how technology companies are coming together to support the work of healthcare professionals and work through the many challenges presented by the pandemic.
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Alice Bonasio is a XR and Digital Transformation Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.