How Surgeons Use VR Technology to Train and Adapt

Jan 15, 2021 | 42Gears Team

Do Surgeons Use VR? Learn how virtual reality can help train surgeons, like the one in this picture. But VR in healthcare, or VR in medicine, needs high-quality virtual reality management.

Virtual reality in healthcare is increasingly important. Still, most publicized uses are patient-focused. While this raises the prominence of VR in medicine, it means people know less about behind-the-scenes uses of VR, even as hospitals try learning more about virtual reality management. Even surgeons may not be able to answer common questions like “Do Surgeons or Doctors Use VR?” and “How Virtual Reality Can Help Train Surgeons”.

The answer to the question “Do Surgeons Use VR?” is a resounding yes, but there are two categories these uses fall into. On one hand, surgeons can use VR to train for surgeries, learning new procedures and revisiting old ones with ease. On the other hand, Surgeons also use VR to adapt to the specific challenges of each surgery they perform.

Let’s look at each category to see how VR can help train surgeons, and what hospitals need if they want to join in, too.

How Surgeons Use VR to Train

Virtual Practice Surgeries

When surgeons are first learning new procedures, they face a challenge. They need as much practice as possible in order to master procedures. Yet, performing surgery on a subject to train is not feasible.

While observation and reading are the most common learning tools, the rise of VR in healthcare opens up a new possibility. Companies like Osso VR offer digital surgery practice to aspiring surgeons. While the use of VR controllers may not perfectly replicate real-life tools, these procedures provide a way to safely gain first-hand experience.  

Empathy Training

Surgeons must be empathetic to the needs and experiences of their patients. Still, even well-intentioned surgeons may sometimes struggle to understand what patients feel and encounter on a day-to-day basis.

One of the most exciting uses of VR in medicine is through empathy training – allowing doctors to experience life as their patients do. Studies have shown significant improvements in empathy and understanding among doctors who have used VR for empathy training.

Standardized Certifications

Of course, in order to be licensed as a surgeon, candidates need to complete certification tests. While this includes a written exam component, as well as years of residency, it is typically difficult to measure surgical skill in an examination context.

Once virtual reality in medicine comes into play, however, this changes substantially. Surgical examinations have now begun to include VR surgery sequences alongside standard written materials. This makes it possible to give every candidate the same operating-table conditions, and compare results across candidates.

How Surgeons Use VR to Personalize

Personalized “Rehearsal Surgeries”

While VR in healthcare is exciting in and of itself, it is especially exciting in the context of other personalized medicine trends. Thanks to patient-specific data obtained from procedures like MRI and CT scans, surgeons can use VR to optimize their approach for each surgery.

Surgeons can import patient brain structure data into VR surgery simulations. This means that any practice they do will exactly match the challenges faced during the actual surgery, and if any unique strategies are necessary, surgeons can practice them in advance.

Properly Sizing and Preparing Implants

Given that many surgeries focus on inserting stents and other implants, those implants need to be properly sized. Virtual reality provides new ways to assess body spaces in advance, ensuring any materials fit well in the space.

This can also be used to guide patients through the procedures they are about to have. This is invaluable for patients, who may feel more in control because they understand the procedure better.

Improving Inter-Surgeon Conferences

Although it’s not what many imagine when asking how virtual reality can help train surgeons, conferences are an essential catalyst for evolving the field. This means that finding ways to implement virtual reality in medicine-focused conventions could have a big impact.

It’s not hard to imagine the benefit of VR in this context. For example, if a surgeon devices a particularly efficient and reliable technique for a given surgery, showing it to others via VR can make it much easier to learn and replicate.

What Obstacles Exist for VR in Healthcare?

Given the many exciting ways VR can improve medicine and surgical practice, one might ask why VR in medicine is not more widespread.

The answer is that while VR can be invaluable, virtual reality management can be very hard. Hospitals need to keep track of headsets as they move through a hospital, and identify when a given headset stops working. Plus, given that VR is popular for playing video games, some may be tempted to steal headsets for personal use.

Thankfully, in the last few years, hospitals have started getting access to technology that lets them manage VR headsets better. Namely, mobile device management technology lets admins monitor and secure VR headsets with the same techniques they use to manage phones and tablets.

If you are in the position to help surgeons train with VR, you should investigate whether mobile device management can help solve issues with virtual reality management. If you already have VR devices and need to manage them, try out mobile device management for free using the link below.

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