‘XR’ tech used to train NHS staff during pandemic

NHS workers from across the UK have accessed training through virtual, augmented and mixed reality (XR) technology since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, as the health service moved to rapidly upskill its workforce to treat patients with COVID-19.

With access to face-to-face training drastically limited – and the need to equip frontline healthcare workers with COVID-specific skills critical, Bristol-based training company Virti stepped in to deliver remote educational programmes to NHS employees at scale.

Following approval by Health Education England, Virti were able to roll out specially designed COVID-19 modules for use on their immersive training platform – accessible to NHS staff via a virtual reality headset, desktop or smart device. Clinicians from up and down the country accessed the training, with tens of thousands of training sessions recorded.

Virti’s interactive software has been used to upskill clinicians on key areas such as how to safely apply and remove personal protective equipment (PPE), how to navigate an unfamiliar intensive care ward, and how to engage with patients and their families.

Tom Woollard, West Suffolk Hospital Clinical Skills and Simulation Tutor, comments: “We’ve been using Virti’s technology in our intensive care unit to help train staff who have been drafted in to deal with COVID-19 demand. The videos which we have created and uploaded are being accessed on the Virti platform by nursing staff, physiotherapists and Operational

Department Practitioners (ODPs) to orient them in the new environment and reduce their anxiety. The tech has helped us to reach a large audience and deliver formerly labour-intensive training and teaching which is now impossible with social distancing. In the future, West Suffolk will consider applying Virti tech to other areas of hospital practice.”

Virti’s technology uses virtual and augmented reality to recreate hospital environments and real patient cases that the user can interact with; just like real life but in a safe and convenient setting. The system then uses artificial intelligence to assess users objectively and improve their performance.

XR training has a research-proven positive impact on the confidence and skill retention capacity of medical trainees, with evidence showing that Virti’s training can also be used to reduce stress and burnout.

Founded by NHS National Innovation Fellow and former NHS trauma surgeon Dr Alexander Young, Virti’s unique application of data-driven XR was already being used around the world prior to the pandemic. Led by a team of experienced tech developers and medical professionals, Virti is the only education-sector company to have been accepted onto the prestigious NHS National Innovation Programme.

The company were also recently named winners of the government’s NHS TechForce 19 challenge.

With social distancing looking set to become part of the UK’s ‘new normal’, the team behind Virti believe that technology that enables remote learning at scale will take on an augmented role at the forefront of medical training.

Virti founder and CEO, Dr Alexander Young, comments: “Virti’s mission is to deliver fast and effective training at scale. Over the last few months, we wanted to ensure as many NHS clinicians as possible could access our healthcare training tools. The pandemic meant that lots of new clinicians were being onboarded, key personnel were changing roles, and new medical environments were being created. At the same time, very limited face-to-face training could be carried out. Having already worked extensively with healthcare organisations and medical schools designing their training models, we knew Virti was in a position to help during this crisis.

“By providing the most advanced data and tech driven training to NHS frontline staff we are helping to ensure that patients receive the highest possible standard of care, whilst simultaneously prioritising the safety of our essential healthcare workers. It’s an honour to be playing a small role in equipping our frontline NHS staff with the skills needed to fight this virus.”


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