Using Mixed Reality to Improve Medical Training

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) has in recent years opened up a whole new world of possibilities in various industry sectors, but within healthcare (specifically medical training) the benefits just seem to keep on coming.

As such, Mixed Reality (MR) is quickly becoming a mainstay in the medical field, promising to revolutionise how doctors learn and practice medicine. Its many applications, made possible by combining real-world images and computer generated data, include improved accuracy in diagnostics, more efficient patient care and reduced risk. It goes without saying that the use of Mixed Reality in healthcare will be – and already is – transformative.

In this guide, we will discuss the many benefits of using MR in the medical community, provide an overview of current applications and talk about how you can get started implementing a newer, safer and more efficient healthcare education solution.

Let’s understand why AR, VR and everything in between is so beneficial for the modern doctor, and begin exploring ways it can be used in your own practice or institution.

What is Mixed Reality and How Can It Improve Medical Training?

In short, mixed reality is interactive technology that allows users to experience and interact with a digital environment; and with technologies that use augmented reality, bring this interaction in to the physical world – making it an immensely powerful tool for medical training and education.

In certain medical scenarios, MR has been used to create highly realistic simulations that can be used to train doctors and other healthcare professionals without putting patients at risk. Practitioners can learn vital skills (and have what feels like a hands-on experience), in a safe and controlled setting before they need to apply these skills in real life situations.

This removes the need to use expensive and potentially dangerous medical equipment and means medical educators can provide augmented reality medical training to more students in less time.

In the next section, we explore some of the benefits of mixed reality in healthcare in more detail.

A doctor stood by an AR display of a heart and statistics

Using Mixed Reality to Improve Medical Training

Its ability to provide such immersive experiences makes MR an essential resource for medical professionals – but why is this so much better than a typical training course or independent study?

Well, traditional training methods such as lectures and textbooks simply cannot facilitate this depth of exploration into medical topics, and are also more likely to be outdated. Immersive experiences, interactive visuals and tactile feedback gives medical students far better understandings of complex topics and medical procedures. Plus, it’s actually been noted that by learning through hands-on experience, learners, including medical students, could actually see an increase in overall knowledge retention.

In short, using MR consistently in healthcare education…

  • Helps medical professionals to better prepare for real-life situations
  • Eliminates the need for costly and time-consuming physical simulations, making training more accessible and cost-effective
  • Allows medical professionals to learn at their own pace and, in some cases, receive tailored performance feedback
  • Allows for continuous learning and improvement as technologies improve

Discover more about the ways in which augmented reality is used…

The Advantages of Using Mixed Reality in Medical Training

Medical education is changing for the better – let’s go into a little more depth and explore why:

MR Provides Realistic Medical Training
Mixed reality medical training is essentially an enhanced, more true-to-life version of traditional medical training methods. Through fantastic representations of environments, MR platforms enable higher levels of accuracy with training. Users can move quickly between different tasks, and if needed, repeat tasks over and over. This helps to streamline and increase the effectiveness of the learning process for each individual.

Allows Students to Practise Skills in a Safe Environment
The use of mixed reality technology to enhance realistic medical training allows medical students to practise their skills in a safe environment. With interactive learning, trainees are able to hone their skills without putting patients (or themselves) at risk of harm or injury. This allows students to gain experience and understand medical procedures more effectively before having to perform them in real time.

Generates Accurate Visual Feedback for Improved Learning Outcomes
Using mixed reality technology to enhance medical training means that learners can be provided with accurate, tangible feedback on their performance, allowing them to improve their skills quickly and efficiently. With MR offering a unique, hands-on experience, trainees are able to learn and adapt through visual cues that will indicate how well they are performing. This reduces the risk of potential errors and ensures that learners fully understand the material before taking it into the real world.

Offers a Cost Effective Solution for Medical Education and Training
Mixed reality medical training is, in the long-term, a cost-effective and scalable solution. By creating virtual environments and simulations, hospitals can save significant costs associated with real-life scenarios such as purchasing expensive medical equipment or hiring actors to simulate patients. This allows healthcare organisations to allocate resources in other areas to maximise their return on investment.

A ribcage and shoulder bone

Examples of Mixed Reality in Medical Training

Mixed reality in healthcare is no novelty, and in some practices it is already a popular solution for some common issues and inefficiencies. Below, we list some examples of augmented reality in healthcare and medical education:

  • As mentioned, the primary use of 3D imaging, holograms and simulations is to train medical professionals in various procedures. Doctors and nurses can more easily visualise intricate anatomy and practise an operation before performing it on a real patient. This technology also allows for better visualisation of complex organs and other body parts that are difficult to see in traditional X-ray or CT scans.
  • Some medical educators are also using voice-controlled AI systems as part of their training methods, allowing users (students) to interact with their virtual environment just as they would in reality. Allowing voice commands means students can interact quickly so they can focus on what matters most – patient care. Commands can control the speed and direction of the student’s movements, allowing them to complete tasks more efficiently, more accurately and with more fluidity.
  • MR can also be used to simulate various scenarios to help determine the effects that certain treatments would have on the body, thus enabling improved, personalised care plans tailored to fit each individual patient.
  • MR can also be useful in aiding preoperative planning surgeries, calculating intracranial pressure, identifying vascular malformations and even detecting tumours requiring biopsies in various regions of the body. Healthcare professionals can therefore operate increasingly safely and more efficiently with support from AR technologies.

Factors to Consider When Implementing Mixed Reality in Medical Training

When implementing mixed reality in medical training, there are several important factors to consider:

  • Ensure that the MR system is user-friendly and intuitive for both providers and learners alike. The interface needs to be easy to navigate so that any user can access all necessary features with minimal confusion.
  • Ensure the MR system can accurately and reliably recognise commands. Training will be useless if irrelevant information is displayed when something is requested, so to ensure medical training is effective, tests must be done before the system is implemented.
  • Consider data security. Data stored within an MR system must be protected, and primary users should be able to configure permissions to restrict certain features.
  • Learn the available commands in the MR system before implementing a standardised process. To get the most out of the software, make sure you understand the most common types of command (voice commands) and how the system interprets them. Gesture commands and facial recognition are also common.

Final Thoughts

Mixed reality is, without a doubt, an extremely powerful tool for medical training – and can even be used for other healthcare applications. By leveraging its capabilities, students can learn more efficiently without risking patient safety or putting extra strain on hospital resources, making it a win-win all round.

Beyond 2023, the use of mixed reality in medical training will likely become standardised, so get ahead and learn how to use it most effectively. At Sliced Bread Animation, we can provide bespoke medical and healthcare animations, VR and AR experiences and more, helping you look to the future. Contact us today to learn more!

Recent Posts