Ohio resident physicians in Emergency Medicine are getting a new taste of the ER, through virtual reality (VR). These doctors in training at OhioHealth’s Grant Medical Center are jumping into the emergency environment through recorded scenarios viewed on the HTC Vive VR platform.

The use of virtual reality for education has gotten a lot of attention in many arenas including healthcare. Last year, we covered work at the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western applying virtual reality to medical student education. And before that, we covered pilots leveraging Google Glass to add a touch of augmented reality to supporting complex medical procedures.

As part of Ohio University’s Immersive Media Initiative to increase VR use in realistic situations, this program drops residents right into the middle of a virtual trauma bay. The users can walk around a virtual ER, and view various medical scenarios in stereoscopic 3D. Each environment is created through the use of multiple 360 degree cameras with additional audio recordings, recorded with consent of patients during real-life encounters. These are then stitched together to create a full VR environment, viewable through the Vive. They currently have 3 scenarios, and plan for creating a full library of VR environments to better equip residents for critical care situations. While users can roam the virtual emergency rooms, the experiences are otherwise non-interactive, and similar to 360 videos.

VR is being used increasingly throughout healthcare, for pain management, mental health, medical education, and more. It’s certainly a good fit for use with resident education. The ability to provide an immersive, first-person view of the high-energy environment of the emergency room is a valuable tool for trainees. We will likely see this being utilized more frequently in medical student and resident education nationwide.