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UK Hosptial Announces PatientVR for ‘Human Factors’ Training

When discussing virtual reality’s (VR) potential medical applications, uses in the likes of surgery and immediate treatment are what first spring to mind. However a UK-based hospital is to become one of the first too look at other uses for the technology. The team at Torbay Hospital in South Devon has created PatientVR, a new training series that uses head-mounted displays (HMDs) such as the Oculus Rift to give doctors, nurses and more some insight into the ‘human factors’ involved in treating patients.


PatientVR is a proposed series of films, the first of which puts viewers in the shoes of a fictional patient that begins to experience chest pains. Filmed in 360 degrees, users assume the role of this patient as they are taken via ambulance to the Emergency Department and then onto an operating theatre. The aim of the video is to help those treating such patients to better understand their feelings and emotions as they are presented with a range of distressing events and information.

“Patients can sometimes be overwhelmed by what is happening around them and the PatientVR concept is about placing doctors, nurses and other frontline staff in the patient’s shoes,” project developer Nick Peres said.

“For some time, our clinical skills team has been using mannequins in staff training, and although the mannequins can blink, breath, bleed and speak, they cannot portray what the patient feels or sees.  Virtual reality is big news currently in the gaming and entertainment industry and whilst studying for a PhD I started to look at how we could use virtual reality to help represent the patient voice in medical education and training.”

At the hospital itself this footage can be viewed on the second development kit (DK2) for the Oculus Rift. Having watched the film, staff discuss the patient’s state of mind, staff actions and interactions. More films are planned, covering other potential situations and even on sharing bad news to patients’ loved ones. The hospital hopes to eventually use these videos to design environments to comfort patients and give nervous people trial runs of experiences. As for surgery, another medical VR experience titled The Virtual Surgeon was recently revealed.

VRFocus will continue to follow any and all uses for VR, reporting back with the latest updates.

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