Ohio doctors employ virtual reality to train for trauma care


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Dr. Arishi Abdulaziz put on a headset, moved his hands slightly and immersed himself into a virtual world.

But this was no video game. Abdulaziz was “standing” in a trauma bay at OhioHealth Grant Medical Center, amid a medical team treating a car crash victim.

He watched the team cut off the patient’s black T-shirt and shorts. He heard a doctor ask the patient questions. Meanwhile, a medical technician scanned the man’s abdomen and chest with an ultrasound probe.

Abdulaziz turned to the right and left to assess staff members and watch monitors. He turned around to review an ultrasound screen.

Eventually, he removed the gear and got his bearings. He was back in a small office at Grant.

“It’s a great experience,” Abdulaziz said. “It is as if you are in trauma, really. Like 100 percent, you are in trauma.”

The virtual-reality experience is new for residents training in trauma care at the downtown hospital. Earlier this month, Abdulaziz, a resident from the University of Toledo Medical Center, joined Dr. Jesse Nichols, a resident from the Adena Regional Medical Center in Chillicothe, in testing out the experience.

Nichols donned headgear and suddenly was among members of a trauma team helping out a woman injured in a fall.

“I felt like I needed to reach out and help the patient,” he said, upon removing the headgear. “You’re right there.”

The virtual-reality scenarios — there are three — were filmed in July by a team from Ohio University that hung or mounted three softball-sized camera and microphone units in the emergency department to capture 360-degree experiences, said Eric Williams, co-creator of the new Immersive Media Initiative at the Athens, Ohio, school. Patients consented to be in the videos.

After filming, the Ohio University team pieced together video, then added a sphere of sound before adapting it all to work with HTC virtual-reality headgear and software.

The footage will be used to help residents on their first day of trauma-surgery and critical-care training at Grant, said Dr. Thanh Nguyen, a trauma services physician.

The goal is to familiarize residents with the sights and sounds of trauma bays and the different roles played by doctors, medics, nurses and technicians who attend to patients.

Nguyen foresees a vast library of scenarios.

“The goal eventually is to have hundreds of patients to teach different scenarios, like, ‘This is what a gunshot victim looks like,’ ‘This is what a stabbing looks like,’ ‘This is what a car accident looks like,’” Nguyen said.

Nguyen said he also hopes that future scenarios include patients who move from trauma bay to operating room to the intensive-care unit. Other goals include creating a smartphone app and to expand training programs to cater to nurses and more experienced doctors.

Williams said that the project is part of Ohio University’s Immersive Media Initiative, which started last year with a $1 million university innovation challenge grant. The school wants to expand virtual and augmented reality across various university disciplines and in the community.

“The main thrust of the Immersive Media Initiative is to use virtual reality as an educational platform for graduate and undergraduate students,” said Williams, also an associate professor in the School of Media Arts & Studies. “Students not only learn technology in the classroom, but they’re able to then go out and work on real world projects.”

As Nichols and Abdulaziz experienced the virtual trauma bay, they saw things from the view of the physician doing an assessment at the patient’s bedside. The program’s software also allows for views from the foot of the gurney and from the side of the room.

“This is really the first step,” Williams said. “This technology is so new that the next steps are only limited by our imagination.”

By Joanne Viviano

The Columbus Dispatch

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