An Immersive Virtual Reality Platform for Medical Education

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  • Proceedings of the 33rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2000An Immersive Virtual Reality Platform for Medical Education: Introduction tothe Medical Readiness Trainer

    Medical Readiness Trainer TeamEmergency Medicine Research Laboratories

    Modeling and Simulation Research LaboratoryDepartment of Emergency Medicine

    University of Michigan Health SystemAnn Arbor, MI 48109

    E-mail address: mrt@umich.eduAbstract

    The Medical Readiness Trainer (MRT) constitutes amedical education environment, in which, the integrationof fully immersive Virtual Reality with highly advancedmedical simulation technologies and medical databasesexposes the trainee to the vast range of complex medicalsituations. MRT allows the simultaneous interaction ofmedically appropriate context, situational realism, andpsychological stressors necessary for the dynamicacquisition of manual and diagnostic medical skills. Anetwork of MRTs will allow creation of collaborativevirtual environments essential for training of bothindividual and team/unit medical skills, and for trainingof medical management and logistic support functions.0-7695-0493-0/00Introduction to the Medical ReadinessTrainer

    Several studies (e.g., Dumay, 1995; Hoffman etal., 1997; Jerant et al., 1995, Knuth et al., 1998. See alsoPickett et al., 1998; McCarthy et al., 1998) havedemonstrated the acute need for integrative training ofmedical personnel in manual, diagnostic, and patientmanagement skills. While such training is available tostaffs at medical education hospitals, the access tosophisticated training by the personnel working at theremote health facility is still limited. Moreover, even inthe ideal setting of a teaching hospital, training is based onat the bedside (or in the operating-, emergency room)concept. Hence, none of the currently employed teachingmethods provide satisfactory solutions for a truly wellintegrated system where all aspects of medical knowledge(i.e., theoretical and practical) are employedsimultaneously. Consequently, most of the currentlyemployed teaching methods are based on flow chart(semi-static) approaches that fail to incorporate thecomplexity of medical reality. I.e., the environmentwhere large amounts of information need to beinstantaneously combined, analyzed, transformed into ameaningful practical skills-driven activity, and where timerepresents a critical factor (Kreines et al., 1995;Takabayashi et al., 1995; Kraft et al., 1997; Willy et al.,1998). Finally, despite their increasing popularity, thetechnology-driven training devices available today areincapable of immersing the trainee in the dynamic,environmental stressors of modern medicine and itsdemand for the relentless maintenance of intellectual andpractical skills (Xiao et al., 1996; Sica et al., 1999). $10.00 (c) 2000 IEEE 1

  • Proceedings of the 33rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2000Virtual Reality, Human Patient Simulatorsand the Current Medical Training

    Virtual Reality (VR), as part of computerscience, allows computer-based models of the real worldto be generated, and provides humans with a means tointeract with these models through new human-computerinterfaces, and, thus to nearly realistically experiencethese models (Kaltenborn and Rienhoff, 1993). Thisconcept applies to medicine (Carnarar, 1993), as much asto any other field of human endeavor, where manual skillsand intellectual experience need to be perfected throughtraining in complex or potentially dangerous situations.Probably the most forward-looking applications of virtualreality in medicine are those proposed by Satava (Satava,1994,1995 a, b). Several other authors recognize VR-based education and training as the principal platform forthe 21st century (Thalmann and Thalmann, 1994; Kenyonand Afenya, 1995; Hoffman et al., 1995; Hoffman andVu, 1997). It is also recognized that skills acquired andtrained in VR transfer to real life medical operations(Kenyon and Afenya, 1995). In addition to training inprocedural and diagnostic skills, (Sailors and East, 1994;Larsson et al., 1997), VR instruction and coaching canseason the trainees to hazards and stressors of medicaloperations in atypical environments, e.g., ships, aircraft,or during man made and natural disasters, etc. (Baker andRyals, 1996; Mitchell, 1997)]. VR-based training canalso prepare/desensitize to the impact of theenvironmental trauma and enhance the capacity toperform with undiminished medical efficiencyirrespectively of the surrounding physical setting(Rothbaum et al., 1997).

    In contrast to other VR-based systems (e.g.,flight or bridge simulators), the major disadvantage of thecurrent virtual reality medical training environments istheir inability to provide the trainee with one of themedically most critical sensory inputs: the experience oftactile and force feedback (Dumay, 1995). While some ofthese drawbacks have been corrected in a few of therelatively simple systems available commercially, suchdevices offer only fragmented, single task-orientedsolutions. Nonetheless, even with these recognizedlimitations, several VR-based training tools for exercising,e.g., suture placement skills (Ota et al., 1995), endoscopy(Blezek and Robb, 1997), bronchoscopy (Vining et al.,1996), arthroscopy (Ziegler et al., 1995), orthognaticsurgery (Wagner et al., 1997), etc., become increasinglypopular. Viewed as independent platforms, HumanPatient Simulators (HPS; Christensen et al., 1997;Takashina et al., 1997) alone do not provide the richnessof VR environments. However, training using HPSproved highly effective particularly in anesthesia(Fletcher, 1995; Pate-Cornell et al., 1997), in certain0-7695-0493-0/00aspects of emergency medicine (Sanders et al., 1998), andin medical crisis management (Kurrek and Fish, 1996).The success of HPS training methods in these disciplinesis particularly encouraging when viewed in the context ofmilitary and emergency medicine. However, the successalso points at the significant limitations of stand-aloneHPS approaches directed at procedure training. The latterdeficiencies are eliminated by the introduction of theMRT which provides the trainee both with a sophisticatedhaptic interface and, by employing fully immersive virtualreality including sound and other sensory inputs, with thecritically important environmental stressors (Edgar andReeves, 1997). Combination of all these elements resultsin a very rich environment characteristic of complex, fast-paced, and intense medical operations typical ofemergency or trauma medicine, in which the sensory inputcan be excessive and, at times, highly distracting as well.

    Emergency and trauma medicine comprise thefew medical specialties demanding rapid integration ofdiscrete information elements into a coherent, outcome-oriented action stream subjected to a continuousmodification by the variation in the nature of the incomingpatient data. Yet, recent studies have shown significantdeficiencies in diagnostic techniques not only amonginternal medicine but also emergency medicine residents(Mangione et al., 1995). Equally disturbing are thedeficiencies in the mastery of pre-hospital physicalassessment skills demonstrated in emergency medicaltechnicians and combat medics (Vayer et al., 1994; seealso DeLorenzo, 1997 and Butler et al., 1997). At theother end of the medical specialty spectrum, a significanterosion of skills has been observed among generalpractitioners in the areas distant from the metropolitantraining centers (Wise et al., 1994). Thus, it is notsurprising that many general practitioners find additionalrefresher training in advanced trauma/life support (ATLS)offered by the university centers a very useful tool in theirsubsequent approach to trauma patients (Ben-Abraham etal., 1997). Finally, the stress of practicingemergency/trauma medicine appears to have differentimpact on trained vs. non-trained personnel, as shown byAlagappan et al. (1996) in a study comparing the impactof a 4-week rotation on EM (emergency medicine) versusnon-EM residents. While the level of psychologicaldistress increased significantly in the latter group, thereverse trend characterized EM trained physicians. Insummary, it is evident that the most optimal form oftraining will encompass several elements, i.e., a) medicalrealism; b) appropriate medical content and context; c)skills appropriate to the treated disorder; d) stress imposedby the emergency/trauma medicine patient; e) stressimposed by the environment. It is equally evident that inorder to be optimal, such training must result in: a)mastery of manual skills appropriate to the level ofmedical training; b) mastery of appropriate diagnostic $10.00 (c) 2000 IEEE 2

  • Proceedings of the 33rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2000skills; c) ability to maintain mental overview (mentalreadiness) of the medical situation despite its continuousfluidity; d) ability to manage intellectual and physicalresources and e) ability to function with the maximumefficiency despite external stressor factors.

    At present neither PC (personal computer),virtual reality, organ nor human patient-based trainingsystems offer such training capacity or outcomes(although it must be mentioned that PC-based approachesincorporating some of the stressors are developed forother activities within the Armed Forces, see Pickett et al.,1998; McCarthy et al., 1998). Realistic training inmanagement of multiple casualties, training of high levelmedical personnel responsible for the management ofmulti-patient facilities (or groups of such facilities) isentirely beyond the capacity of todays computer basededucational systems (but see Christie and Levary, 1998).The lack of physical platforms that would allow trainingand exercising higher echelon medical managementassociated with relief/humanitarian activities or masscasualty scenarios hampers the development