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What are the benefits of virtual reality for surgical training?

July 6, 2022
6 Minute Read

If you’re looking for a technology that has transformed the healthcare market by benefiting surgical professionals and improving patients’ lives — then virtual reality (VR) is the best of both worlds. With a global market estimate expected to exceed 46 billion by 2026, VR technology’s momentum shows no signs of slowing. A report by Goldman Sachs Investment Research shows:

  • Healthcare is one of the top 3 industries that will continue to remain a leading adopter of VR technology
  • 82% of healthcare professionals agree that VR creates a convenient way to access medical information

Traditional surgical education has remained the same for quite some time, but virtual reality is one of the key drivers of exciting change. One particular segment of the medical industry seeing an increased uptake of VR is surgical training, especially for medical device companies. 

So, just what is propelling these companies to supplement the standard methods of learning and add VR surgical training to their digital toolkit? 

We’ve rounded up six of the major benefits VR brings that medical device companies and the surgeons that use their technologies are taking advantage of today.

The benefits of virtual reality for surgical training:

1. Accessibility

The challenges over the past few years have driven a digital revolution as companies rush to do business more remotely. Surgical training in VR has appeared as one of the top contenders — connecting teams and making both training and content accessible. 

Virtual reality for surgical training breaks down barriers by giving healthcare professionals the ability to: 

  • Work with every member of the surgical team in unison from anywhere in the world to improve procedural efficiency 
  • Assist multiple underserved communities in which doctors do not have immediate access to academic institutions for on-demand training
  • Train anytime schedules permit
  • Use platforms that offer localization, allowing practice in preferred languages

2. Cost

In today’s economy, medical supplies needed to support traditional methods of training may be difficult to come by. The overall healthcare industry costs have risen, making budget cuts for travel and in-person training a looming reality. Training in VR helps cut down costs in multiple ways for both medical device companies and healthcare providers. 

The ability to practice remotely first reduces the amount of money invested in traveling to a healthcare facility for in-person training. Additionally, medical equipment and PPE that is needed for practitioners to “scrub in” for training is no longer needed, as well as the actual cadavers being used for this process. Giving teams the opportunity to practice in VR better prepares them for the live procedure and makes sure no time or materials are put to waste.


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3. Time

Time is always of the essence when it comes to the OR. Virtual reality for surgical training was designed to optimize the time it takes surgical teams to train. Ways that VR helps save time in the short-term and long-term include:

  • Saving the time it takes to prep for training versus traditional methods 
  • Picking back up on a previous training session instead of having to start completely over
  • Working outside of the OR to sharpen skills on an unfamiliar procedure
  • Practicing a procedure together as a new surgical team
  • Training for surgeries on-demand, rather than waiting for a certain lab to be scheduled
  • Conducting as many dress rehearsals as needed in order to optimize time within the OR 

Ultimately, all of these time-saving benefits assist in closing the learning gap faster and increasing operating room availability for surgeries — benefiting both surgical teams and patients.

4. Repeatability

Imagine a training model where learning and actively risk-taking without worrying about the consequences was the norm. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that safety is one of the most intrinsic human factors that influences behavior, which is especially true in the field of medicine. As humans, we crave control and order over our day-to-day lives, and when healthcare professionals feel underprepared for a procedure it can challenge a core need for reliability and certainty in their abilities.

A recent study conducted indicates that 30% of medical residents felt like imposters and felt a high degree of responsibility for any medical error that occurs, making it difficult to gain confidence. Surgical training in virtual reality creates a secure environment where you can practice any procedure a countless number of times to assist in your educational journey without the risk of critical failure. 

An example of this can be seen in a key study that was conducted at the University of Los Angeles, California in 2019. Medical students that were training for an orthopedic procedure in VR showed an astounding 230% improvement in overall surgical performance versus the group who utilized traditional methods of training. These participants outshined the others in speed and accuracy of the procedural steps, which shows the importance of repetition.

The ability to repeat any given procedure continuously to achieve the desired outcome also allows for a shorter learning curve in comparison to other forms of surgical training within healthcare, while bringing improved levels of skill and morale for practitioners across the board. This creates the framework for a significant finding: the ability to assess actual proficiency.

5. Objective Assessment

With the patient outcome being the most crucial aspect of any surgery, the ability to assess a surgeon's skills should not only be based on performance occurring solely in the OR. The simulation methodology in VR provides a unique way to implement technical training and assessment in healthcare. This includes a 3-pronged approach including: (1) knowledge of steps, (2) ability to perform critical steps well, and (3) efficiency. 

This is arguably the most important aspect of training overall. If a healthcare professional isn’t aware they are lacking a certain technical skill, then there is no correctional action that can be taken to rectify the problem. Practicing in VR allows for improvement of skills in a safe environment any number of times, and also provides them with real-time, objective feedback on any adjustments that need to be made for accuracy.

6. Hands-On Experience

Headset on, controllers in hand — gone are the days of only having to use cadaver labs and in-person sessions. Visualize having the capability to teleport into an operating room in the blink of an eye. You’re able to perform a procedure right in front of your eyes. Welcome to the hands-on experience of virtual reality.

When it comes to having an incredible experience in virtual reality, the most important part is quality. Companies like Osso VR hire top-notch talent from leading industries including gaming, film, and technology to provide the most high fidelity, hyper-realistic experience in VR for surgical training. They have the largest medical illustration team modules that feel like a true-to-life OR experience and are industry leaders that are redefining medical education.

While there are a variety of other training tools that can train surgeons (think guides and videos), virtual reality designed with such a level of fidelity for surgical teams sets a new standard for training. 

“For me, the idea is completely centered around empowerment. I love the thought of being able to hand over some of the responsibilities and keys to someone’s education over to them. You can do that by going to the library or watching a YouTube video, but where the disconnect occurs is in the motor skills,” said Dr. Alessandra Ross, MD and Senior Medical Expert at Osso VR. 

“Training in virtual reality gives users a way to actively fine-tune their skills. My favorite things about VR are the exposure to different procedures, the immersion and the ability to repeat this cycle for many different surgeries.”

Virtual reality blends the best elements of traditional tools with a modern spin to show that learning can be effective and engaging.

Interested in exploring the advantages of using VR first-hand? 

The benefits of virtual reality are vast and unique to each healthcare organization. Reading about them is one thing, but experiencing them first-hand is another. Learn more about virtual reality by checking out our VR 101 series, or form your own opinion first-hand by scheduling a demo with our team and stepping into the future of surgical training today.

Nancy Singh
Nancy Singh
Marketing Copywriter
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