NIST-Funded Study Looks at Virtual Reality Pediatric Emergency Training for EMS

Health Scholars has launched a study to assess the value of VR training among medical personnel in Colorado.

Health Scholars has launched a study to assess the value of VR training among emergency medical services (EMS) personnel at three Colorado fire stations.

The study is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) and will analyze whether VR-based training improves learning gains compared to traditional training for pediatric emergency assessment. Pediatric preparedness is especially important because children make up only a small percentage of pre-hospital emergencies, but present a particular challenge for ambulance care providers. Compared to adults, children have anatomical and physiological differences that mask early signs of serious illness and make CPR difficult.

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“Unless caregivers practice pediatric assessment on a regular basis, the nuance and critical skills needed to effectively assess and treat a child will diminish over time,” said Brian Gillett, MD, president of Health Scholars. “This study marks an important effort to measure what happens when location, time and availability of personal training for EMS providers are no longer a challenge, thanks to the use of VR.”

The study assesses the cost, effectiveness, and differences in voice-assisted VR training compared to traditional teaching methods between three fire stations, one urban and two rural: Arvada Fire & Rescue in suburban Denver, and Los Pinos and Upper Pine River Fire Protection. Districts in Southwest Colorado. Emergency responders in the three districts will use Health Scholars’ Pediatric Emergency Assessment ™ VR simulation training with Oculus Quest 2 headsets.

“Participation in the NIST VR study will help us understand the value of virtual reality training and how to integrate it into our systems,” said Bruce Evans, Upper Pine River Fire Chief and President of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT). “The goal is to better prepare our front lines for pediatric emergencies, helping to strengthen the entire community.”

Currently, it is difficult to prioritize pediatric emergency ambulance care, especially with rural fire services, because it can be time-consuming, expensive and labor-intensive.

“By virtualizing training, rural EMS organizations are now able to integrate more immersive training practices,” said Dr. Gillett. “We look forward to these agencies trying out VR technology, providing them with an additional training modality that can be easily adapted to any number of providers, is significantly less expensive than traditional physical simulation and provides actionable performance reporting.”

A 2020 study conducted by Mount Sinai Hospital in New York found that Health Scholars VR reduces the cost of Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) training by 83% compared to traditional mannequin simulation training. Training can also take place and be completed during downtime – an important factor for rural EMS agencies, where volunteer firefighters often have to take time off from their primary job to participate in day-long training sessions and often remotely.

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