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Leveraging technology to enhance learning and skills development

According to the recent NHS Workforce Plan, government investment in education and training is planned to increase by £0.6bn over the next two years and a further £1.8bn, on top of current education and training budgets, within six years.

To ensure that this investment is channelled in a productive way and meets the changing education needs of health professionals, we will need to take full advantage of digital and technological innovations as set out in 2019’s Topol Review. One such, patent pending, technological innovation is the VR-AI Medsets® by IELTS Medical.

In terms of virtual reality (VR), as with any other simulation-based training tool, VR offers a safe space for trainee clinicians to learn crisis management and emergency preparedness. It helps healthcare organisations to simulate critical incidents and test the response strategies of their staff, while enhancing employees’ skills and confidence to handle real-life crisis situations. It can help drive a new age of enterprise training, delivering a cost-effective, immersive, efficient experience to train employees on and, among other things, soft skills.

According to a recent study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 40% of virtual reality learners saw an improvement in confidence compared to classroom learners and a 35% improvement over e-learners to act on what they learned after training in VR. Plus VR learning is the most cost-effective way of learning when it is done on a large scale.

The only issue is that at present controller input for most VR simulation out there is via joystick or gamepad. For us, it did not make sense for trainee clinicians to learn how to, for example, deliver injections using joysticks or to perfect suturing via a gamepad. As such, using our VR-AI Medsets®, learners have the opportunity to interact in the virtual world in the IELTS Medical way; via haptic glove controllers.

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Our systems have been developed using two different glove controllers: the TactGlove by the excellent bHaptics and our own patent pending VR Medi Gloves® – Leshara Rambukwella Edition.

In terms of artificial intelligence (AI), contrary to the established narratives of, “AI robots will steal our jobs,” Mark Britnell’s book Human Solving the Workforce Crisis in Healthcare, describes an end game of using AI to automate routine but error-prone work, thus allowing clinical staff to “move up the food chain” and focus on building relationships with patients and managing their care.

On a daily basis, IELTS Medical assesses trainee clinicians, producing digital reports for them and, in some cases, their employers. This high-quality feedback helps trainees to improve their skills and demonstrate this in, for example, their regulators’ Test of Competence.

While delivering in-person training, which is currently the most effective way to train, we also actively promote leveraging tech via a two pronged approach.

In order for trainees to be able to learn and develop their skills, they need the opportunity to practise either in a real or virtual clinical skills lab. For trainees unable to access a real skills lab and the equipment they need to train, we have built a virtual teaching hospital, accessible at scale via a portable headset.

Then in order for their development to continue, trainees need access to high-quality feedback from clinicians skilled in the art. Our real and virtual teaching spaces give trainees access to experienced clinical educators who are ready, willing and able to provide such feedback.

However, the high-quality feedback that most teaching facilities provide is currently limited by the number of clinical educators on their teams. So we asked the question: what if we could go from a 9 to 5 training capacity to a 24/7 training capacity? It turns out we can using AI.

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AI has the potential to free up clinical educators’ time and improve the accuracy and efficiency of the assessment of the next generation. The potential of AI is great, so it must be harnessed by great minds. It is data intensive, so any such exploration of this powerful resource must be done responsibly. Through the three-pronged approach of a major tech business partner, we are prepared to complete this formidable task.

In sum and in direct response to addressing the clinical shortage in the NHS and private healthcare, we are actively engaged in harnessing VR and AI for the benefit of the healthcare sector in a bid to do our part to add more ready, willing and able clinicians to our wards.

Nonny Nze is the director of IELTS Medical UK

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