Learn how digital studios are creating interactive training experiences to make an impact on COVID-19 healthcare workers. Check out the different WebGL experiences for those on the frontlines in the U.S. and U.K.
Every day, doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel risk their lives caring for COVID-19 patients. Occupational exposure to this infectious pathogen can put workers in harm’s way: In some countries, 1 in 10 healthcare workers are infected with this new virus.
Because COVID-19 is primarily spread from person to person, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is critical to staff and patient safety. Even a seemingly innocuous oversight like leaving a gown’s neck closure unfastened can carry severe consequences. To make matters worse, PPE shortages threaten to create additional challenges for healthcare providers. Leading U.K. doctors are concerned that inappropriately used equipment could be contributing to the issue. With such high stakes, effective training is key to ensuring medical staff follow PPE procedures and reduce the risk of infection. Yet a recent study revealed that only 63% of U.S. nurses say they have been trained on safely donning (i.e., putting on) and doffing (i.e., removing) PPE in the previous year.
A lack of training can contribute to human error, which can have devastating effects: A 2017 study found that healthcare personnel contaminated themselves removing full-body PPE in 66% of simulated instances. To promote greater safety among patients and personnel, healthcare officials across the globe identified a pressing need to create experiential training to complement existing resources.
Headquartered in Warsaw, Poland, Immersion is a digital development studio that specializes in AR and VR experiences for enterprise and entertainment clients. Looking for ways to contribute to the fight against COVID-19, it jumped when an opportunity arose with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Employee Education System (EES). The resulting WebGL application provides an interactive, 12-step walkthrough for donning and doffing PPE.
It is featured on the VA website as a key resource for clinical crisis skills training for intensive care units (ICUs). The app has been shared with thousands of U.S. healthcare providers and workers and is particularly useful for servicemembers newly deployed to the pandemic frontlines.
“Personal protective equipment is healthcare workers’ main – if not only – line of defense,” said Immersion CEO Piotr Baczynski. “We believe that interactive, gamified training is an effective and accessible way to learn the most important elements of COVID-19 PPE safety procedures.”
Given the current demands on the U.S. healthcare system, Immersion moved quickly to create the application. Consulting with experts at the VA, Immersion assembled a 16-person team – comprising developers, 3D modelers, animators and UI designers – and completed the majority of the project within just four days.
The app covers 12 total interactive steps, including jewelry removal, handwashing, and donning and doffing two pairs of gloves, a gown, N95 respirator, and face shield. Live-action videos are also embedded into the experience to complement the animations.
Unity’s real-time 3D development platform made it easy for the Immersion team to iterate rapidly and implement the VA and VHA EES’s feedback quickly during the approval process. Although the Immersion team specializes in AR/VR experiences, they were able to easily expand their skill set leveraging Unity’s broad platform support. They used Unity’s highly optimized WebGL build option to create a browser-based experience that would be easily accessible to the U.S. healthcare community.
Immersion plans to add more training scenarios to the current experience and also deploy iOS and Android applications. Since local networks at hospitals are often heavily protected by firewalls, limiting access to web experiences, a mobile app will give more healthcare workers a way to participate in the training. Immersion is also looking into bringing the app to other countries.
Tackling a similar issue in the U.K., an evidence-based simulation training company has developed supplementary online training for National Health Service (NHS) workers to help them learn PPE guidelines. U.K.-based Cineon Training has been developing PPE training for nuclear radiation safety for the last two years but were urged to repurpose the training to meet COVID-19 needs by the University of Exeter.
Their COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Training aims to provide free training using a gamified learning environment in low-spec (so that it can be accessed remotely). Built on Unity, the experience took just three weeks to complete – with only two weeks in development – by a team of sixteen with consultation from medical personnel.
“PPE is obviously vitally important for protecting NHS staff, and our new training will help people better understand the Public Health England guidelines about using PPE. As NHS staff move around to different parts of hospitals, the PPE requirements change,” says Cineon’s Dr. Sam Vine. “This training will teach staff which PPE items are necessary in which contexts. It also teaches people the correct order for putting on and taking off PPE, to minimize infection risks.”
Cineon’s application has already been tested by the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and has received requests from other hospital networks.
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