MedStar Health develops virtual reality training program for emergency, trauma physicians

Virtual Reality
MedStar Health will unveil its “Trauma:Yellow” virtual reality program next month.

Hospitals are experimenting with virtual reality programs in a number of areas, and a District of Columbia health system will debut this fall a program aimed at improving training for emergency physicians.

MedStar Health's Institute for Innovation will unveil its “Trauma:Yellow” virtual reality program next month at a conference for emergency doctors. The simulation was built by in-house video game developers at the institute’s Simulation Training and Education Lab, according to an article from Washingtonian magazine.

“The objective was to help emergency physicians and trauma surgeons better manage the first 30 minutes or so of a trauma case in the emergency department,” Bill Sheahan, director of the lab, told the publication.

The program is not quite ready for clinical use yet, but the developers have spent four years building its foundation. When complete, “Trauma:Yellow” will be used to prep physicians who may not be experienced in emergency care and help more seasoned emergency doctors hone their skills.

RELATED: Virtual reality holograms have power to transform medical education

With the base infrastructure in place, the developers can adapt the technology to other types of training, according to the article. For instance, the hospital has a defibrillator training program that uses the headsets in tandem with practice dummies; the VR makes the dummies appear more like a real person.

MedStar isn’t the only hospital looking to apply virtual reality to training. Ohio University is using the tech to prep residents for their first days as trauma surgeons. Using the VR headsets, the residents are inserted into a 360-degree experience at a trauma bay to observe physicians and nurses treating a car crash victim.

RELATED: Healthcare's growing uses for virtual reality

A London surgeon also streamed a surgical procedure online using a virtual reality headset, which was viewed by medical students around the world.

Virtual reality also shows promise in pain management, and a number of hospitals across the country are using the tech for both children and adults. A recent study found that virtual reality could reduce patients’ pain scores by 24%, and is seen as a viable solution to reducing opioid prescriptions.

New York-Presbyterian Hospital is testing VR on burn patients, whose pain is often difficult to control, and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is giving the headsets to its pediatric patients to ease their discomfort with injections and blood draws.